Most collaborative projects start out simple enough but somehow can end up getting slipperier and more chaotic as time goes on. Here are 3 things that you can keep in mind when dealing with a project that gets as slippery as a Crisco watermelon.
One of the traditions of the Boy Scout summer camp I worked at every summer as a teenager was the Friday watermelon relay. Troops would send their best swimmers to the river with one simple task: do a 4-part, 50-meter relay swim where one boy passed a watermelon off to the next.
Except there were two twists: we’d cake the watermelons with Crisco and one boy had to have control of the watermelon at all times.
Swimming with a full-size watermelon was hard enough. When it was slathered in Crisco and a Scout had to pass it to another one, it was pure comic mayhem.
The watermelon relay was great fun for teenagers. What’s not fun are the Crisco watermelon relays that happen every day at work for a lot of people.
A collaborative project starts and it seems simple enough. Somehow, it gets slippery, but instead of figuring out why it’s slippery, more people get thrown on the project. But the more people get thrown on the project, the slipperier it gets. The longer it goes on, the more tired people get, which means it gets harder to push the project forward. It’s much more mayhem and much less comedy.
To get out of the Crisco watermelon relay, you have to:
1. Figure out why the project is slippery. Is it a lack of clarity? A lack of prioritization? Scope creep? Shadow politics? Start and stay curious.
2. Stop the shuffle. The more the project changes hands, the more opportunities for it to slip.
3. Give it one specified owner. Too many projects slip because they fall in between people.
Share this with your team to make it easier to call out the Crisco watermelon and handle it accordingly. The phrase is more descriptive, funny, and SFW than ‘clusterf*ck’.
This post is part of a series of “atomic essays” published on Twitter. The previous post from this series about the things that leaders should say more often.
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