The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world

AMP III: Got Purpose?


I tried a little experiment a week ago. I told my 12 yr old to put her banana peel in the compost bin. She asked, “But, why?”. (Don’t ask… that’s just how pre-teens communicate.) I said, “Because I said so”. Guess what! Didn’t work :(

Later in the day, I told her to put an apple core into the compost bin. She asked again, “But, why?”. Sigh! This time I said, “Because it is better for the environment, compost is an excellent soil conditioner, lowers risk of pollution, is better for the environment. Just think.. those grass fields you play soccer on, its great for those”. And she said, “Huh, that makes sense.” And, lo and behold, we haven’t looked back on the composting :)

So, this is a simple example. But a deliberate inclusion in this blog to illustrate a point. Purpose is a key component in everything we do. All things being equal, purpose is the differenciating factor between two job offers. It’s what makes everything we do meaningful, no matter the task.

Establishing a mission and a purpose at all levels within an organization, and conveying that effectively, goes a long way in ensuring engagement and commitment. It brings a new dimension to the task at hand, and a diligence that is uncanny.

Purpose can be defined at all levels of your work structure, including, but not limited to:

  • Company-level
  • Organization-level
  • Task-level

In my mind, purpose is essential and must be well-understood. It goes beyond just getting the next contract serviced, or getting through the unending features list, or getting a product out bug-free. It’s the reason for your existence, the bigger picture, the impact your organization/task/company is going to have in the grand scheme of things, and much more.

Don’t have a purpose? Well, get your team together and do some brainstorming. Bottom-up purpose identification is pretty powerful and a great way to get buy-in from your team. The most effective mission and purpose statements I’ve seen have catchy one-liners or phrases. But that’s not easily arrived at. It takes a great deal of introspection.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how PURPOSE can be/has been a game-changing component of motivation.



About the Author

Anuradha (Anu) Subramanian has over 15 years of experience developing and managing software projects in the areas of internet search, e-commerce platforms, utility information management, product lifecycle management, production & inventory management, business intelligence, civil engineering, as well as integration between these and other applications. This exposure to various industries gives her a unique blend of skills and perspective; she is able to build cross-functional teams, negotiate various levels of hierarchy, and apply her experience to small and large businesses alike. Her Project Managment philosophy is to keep processes simple and intuitive, and to communicate effectively. Anu holds a B.Sc. from Kings College London and an M.S. from Illinois Institute of Technology in Computer Science. She spent many years as development lead on several projects before moving over to Project and Program Mangement. Anu worked as Development Manager at Oracle for 9 yrs, and then Director of Program Management at eMeter Corp. Anu is currently a Program Manager with Amazon Search helping manage new product search initiatives.
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