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"Nobody can really achieve apathy
except when in pursuit of someone else's goals."

By far the most important element of every project turns out to not be the advertised objective of the project, but what I call The Project Within The Project. While the public pronouncements promote this or that feature or that or this other innovation, the real project, The Project Within The Project, looks on unimpressed. The PWTP wonders what's in it for him. He's searching for a premise to use this project assignment to assist him in his pursuit of some personally compelling goal or purpose. No matter how lofty the outside project's objective, it won't motivate much more than a half bucket of warm drool unless the people assigned manage to find their very own personal Project Within That Project.

Outside projects typically expend remarkably little energy encouraging individual contributors to find their personal PWTPs, though the outside project's success might most depend upon realizing this.
Of course, nobody can choose a PWTP for anyone else. Classical motivations prove inadequate in a context where parameters tend to shift without much warning. Funding might shrink. Time pressures will probably continually increase. Money and other status motivators easily wear thin, leaving even the formerly most powerfully dedicated contributor wondering why they bother to even come in every morning. Any project staffed with such creeping ambivalence carries significant and often unacknowledged risk. Nobody can really achieve apathy except when in pursuit of someone else's goals.

The PWTP need not ever become a payoff dangled by management. Most aren't. Most remain unspoken, between the individual contributor and him/her self, deeply felt but private, perhaps privately shared with a close associate or two. The Project Manager might ask after each contributor's PWTP, not to create some obligation to provide that for the contributor, but to know enough to help support them realize it themselves. Some find within an opportunity to engage with technology they personally believe might improve their vitae, a powerful personal motivation. From within this sort of conviction, the inevitable surface imperfections experienced along the way become experience rather than downside pitfalls. The demands to contribute more during stress times becomes less inconveniencing indenture and more surprising opportunity. Buoyancy remains more present.

Every employment contract seems to insist upon a sort of master/slave relationship. The incumbent performs tasks to "earn" the payoff, with the employer controlling the acceptance criteria and subsequent distribution of the reward. The PWTP side-steps this sometimes encumbering paradigm, putting the incumbent in charge of providing their own payoff for some significant portion of their work effort. The best PWTP will guarantee delivery of the desired reward because of the way it's posed. If your PWTP focuses upon the opportunity this project assignment provides for you to work with someone you admire, someone you feel you can learn something really significant from, just showing up becomes a daily immediate payoff.

The more contingent the PWTP, the iffier it becomes. This plays into the same trap sponsors tend to fall into, insisting that if the project does not proceed and deliver as expected, it fails. This expectation severely narrows the opportunity for surprising successes, the kind that emerge in spite of delivering late, over budget, and way off spec, like most projects quite naturally deliver. How might success of your PWTP emerge even when, as is most likely, original delivery expectations fail to emerge at the end? Carefully considering what's in it for you regardless of how the outside project turns out can iron-clad personal motivation, ensuring payoff.

Yes, even the project sponsor, even the customer, seem better engaged after they discover their personal PWTP. Because each individual's responsible for delivering their own satisfaction, no additional management overhead burdens the outside project, but some time up front, simply asking what might first appear a rhetorical question, can benefit the outside project. In my experience, proposing that everyone find their PWTP comes as a shocking surprise to most contributors, a rather radical proposition that encourages more them assuming power than most have grown accustomed to assuming. What if each participant was responsible for producing their own payoff for their efforts? What if The Man only thinks he's in charge?

As a project consultant, I'd usually ask after each individual's PWTP rather than over-focus upon the usual, over-obvious outside project issues. The absence of PWTP explains many of the otherwise confounding velocity and coherence issues common to most every outside project. Individuals might well lose their originating PWTP as conditions shift, and rediscovering that lost passion can place the struggling outside project on a steady road to full recovery. The Muse mentioned this morning that a colleague asked after her PWTP. She realized in that moment that she'd misplaced hers and that her most important job responsibility had therefore become to find a PWTP before she tried to achieve much of anything else on her outside project.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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