I was talking to some clients today about a project that I could see getting stuck between people. Both of them were collaborators on the project, but it wasn’t clear who the project owner was.
Rather than go through a lengthy explanation of the chief difference between a project owner and a project collaborator, I’m going to show a 23-second video that will make it immediately clear. (Sorry, no infographs or two-by-two grids today.)
That first puppy that bails in the first four seconds? He’s not on the project anymore.
Those two puppies who are play-wrestling are in the throes of what a lot of creative collaborations look like. All fun and play, with no sense of direction.
The puppy with the ball is clearly owning the project that is the ball she’s playing with. You can bet that she’d run off the other puppies if they started interfering with whatever agenda she has for the ball.
Projects don’t finish themselves – people finish projects. (Tweet this.)
One of the principles of project planning that you’ll want to take seriously is project ownership, for without it, that fantastic plan amounts to a great mental exercise, but no more.
The closer you get to the the red zone of a project, the harder it is to get the project done. It’s a natural tendency for people to end up playing/fighting in the corner like the two puppies mentioned above.
If you really want to push the ball forward on a project, you’ll need to get clear about:
- Who needs to get off the project? (The first puppy.)
- What needs to happen to convert all of the thrash and chicanery into actual progress? (Make sure that puppies playing don’t stop progress.)
- Is there someone or something else that will help push this project forward?
- Who needs to own the project? (The puppy with the ball.)
That last question about project ownership is the most important of all, but is often the one that goes unspecified or unasked when projects start going sideways. Even worse, when a project finishes smoothly and ahead of schedule, we often forget to celebrate the person who stuck to the ball.
Again, it’s not rocket science – but knowing it doesn’t translate to doing it. (And when it does, I’ll be out of a job. I think I’ll just film puppies at that point.)