This week I’m working with an R&D team in a company that makes bathroom fixtures. As I walked into their lobby I encountered a 4 foot diameter glass ball containing a toilet, one of their products. They also have a papier mache lighted toilet that was built for a festival right next to another toilet in the foyer that opens via a motion sensor when you walk by. And to top it off, the company sign spells out the name of the company in little ceramic toilets. It’s pretty clear that these folks are passionate about their products!At first I thought this was a little bit amusing, but as I worked with them I realizedthat they were not making toilets, they were revolutionizing the concept of the bathroom experience for their customers. They had a bold new vision of what a bathroom could be, how it could make a positive difference in the lives of their customer and to society. Wow!
As project leaders, this is exactly the kind of passion, enthusiasm and commitment that we need to inspire in the people in our teams. Shame on you if your team thinks they are designing a piece of hardware, creating a software product or developing a service. I’ve found that people universally have a strong desire for their lives to matter, to leave some kind of meaningful legacy, to improve the world for themselves and those they love.
If people can be sincerely committed to transforming the world through toilets, I’m sure you can find a way to evoke the passionate commitment of your team to whatever project you lead. One idea is to ask a provocative question of your team, like “Who cares if we do this project or not?” or “Why bother to do it?” If you can’t find reasons beyond “Because we’re getting paid to do it.” then you’re missing one of the greatest sources of project success, the perception that what your people are doing matters. Something to think about next time you’re in the restroom. . .