Rewriting Sisyphus

Part One of Creating the Project Office is creating the conditions for change; Part Two is making the change; Part Three is making change stick.  Our greatest challenge in putting the concepts into action is to rewrite the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus and his rock Greek gods condemned Sisyphus to keep rolling a rock to the top of a mountain where it would fall back of its own weight.  Sisyphus abandons any illusion that he might succeed at the assigned task; he begins to view his ability to do the task again and again as a form of victory, much like trying to do too many projects with no hope of complete success.

Modern organizations cannot afford futile and hopeless efforts. The new hero sees the value of getting the rock up over the mountain.  The rewards, of both the destination and the journey, are clear, convincing, and compelling.  They got that way by passionate visionaries sharing their dreams and enlisting a guiding coalition of supporters.  The dangers of the rock slipping back impact not just one person but the prosperity of the whole organization: the interconnected community.  The rock is carefully chosen while other pebbles are left as is; capabilities are limited to the critical few projects.  Resources are aligned on tasks that help to pull the rock up, brace it from falling back, and remove uphill obstacles.  Other players keep the lions, tigers, and bears from sidetracking progress.  Along with passion, apply patience and persistence.

The tipping point that allows the rock to reach the top and stay there is a project office with the right people employing efficient processes in an effective environment.  The program: both to create and operate the PO: is carefully planned, excellently executed, and nurtured once it reaches the top.  Because more mountains or opportunities can be seen from the new vantage point achieved by successful programs, the community realizes that the leadership, learning, means, and motivation it developed are the best means to tackle new challenges and expand its prosperity.  Ever present is a core team of project officers who gird, goad, and guide.

Adapted from Creating the Project Office:  a Manager’s Guide to Leading Organizational Change by Englund, Graham, and Dinsmore.
– Randy Englund,


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