(This article was originally published on www.svprojectmanagement.com)
This past summer I went to a baseball game. It wasn’t completely without benefit. I enjoyed indulging in the traditional stadium food and libations, the $1 hot dogs formed from some unrecognizable substance and the “it shall offend no one” stadium beer (nor shall it please anyone, but let’s not be sticklers). While being herded out with the crowds I noticed that many people seemed to be truly elated or dejected based on the victor in this sports match. Who won? Who cares! While I really tried to get into the spirit of things, I just couldn’t work up a good head of steam around caring who hit a little while ball farther or ran around a dirt track before that little white ball could touch them. Baseball is a perfectly fine way to spend an afternoon, and it’s a hoot to sit there cheering with the crowd and jeering at the umpires, but it didn’t seem to be worth agonizing or celebrating the outcome. Maybe I am missing a sports gene? Is it carried on the X chromosome but recessive? Or is it dominant and on the Y chromosome? Who knows, but it got me thinking . . .
There we were . . . sitting in the stadium with 30,000 other people focusing some attention and plenty of money on a contest that ultimately doesn’t mean a darn thing in the world at large. Then it occurred to me. Isn’t that just like some projects? Various contingents battling it out fiercely while competitors rage at the gates. Engineering vs. Marketing, Executives vs. middle managers, the project manager against “the world” . . . one big drama . . . pirates fighting each other on their own ship while the Spanish Galleon sails up and blows them out of the water.
Like some projects, this game was full of drama but not much substance . . . just a lot of jousting among the knights of the oblong rhomboid table. No damsels rescued, no dragons slain, but most everyone pretty satisfied with the hoopla. We can sometimes be quite content with the illusion of progress provided by struggle, challenge and triumph rather than meaningful progress. Real or perceived differences distract us, consume us, while real threats approach undetected and extraordinary opportunity passes us by unnoticed. Like ants marching aon the back of an elephant, we are mercifully unaware of the futility of our battles and struggles.
It sure is fun to play games, pit ourselves against others, and “dis” our rivals. But let’s not pretend that we’re accomplishing anything by those actions. When we’re ready to step up and do something that matters, we’ll have to look beyond the distinction of individuals, teams and rivals to what it’s really going to take to achieve our goals and make a difference in the world.by