I recently attended the inaugural PMI Australia conference in Sydney. I had a great time, learnt lots, and made some new friends and contacts. I had a few new ideas for posts and you will hear about them over the coming months.
One of the keynote speakers was Cassandra Wilkinson, co-founder of Sydney's FBi radio and a heap of other diverse things (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassandra_Wilkinson). Her talk was extremely fascinating and one story struck a chord with me (pardon the pun), so I will attempt to do it justice here...
The Magic Bass Player.
The lead guitarist has his solos and his great riffs - he could be in another band tomorrow.
The singer has his songs and his great voice - he could get a gig in any band.
But the bass player, all he has is the band, so he puts all his effort into making sure that the band continues and is successful. He is the guy who, when the drummer sleeps with the singers girlfriend, gets them back in the room together. When the guitarist is shipped off to rehab, he is the one who sneaks the guy out and hits the pub for a drink.
Why is the magic bass player important? Cause without him there is no band, without him the band falls apart.
It could be said that the same is true for the project manager and the project. He wouldn't be without the project. He keeps the project running. He makes sure that the project sponsor and the tech lead maintain a healthy relationship, etc.
Cass also talked about the difference between dreams and plans. Imagine if Martin Luther King had not said "I have a dream", but instead, "I have a plan". What would the response have been? When will it be completed? How much will it cost? What are the steps in this plan? Who is involved in the plan?
This resonated with me as I have felt this way coming out of strategy sessions where a plan was proposed but no details of the plan. At the time I was annoyed that there was a plan with no details, and I annoyed my managers by asking the same questions as above. But perhaps it was just wording or even worse my comprehension the wording that made me annoyed. Instead of me believing in the dream, I was left asking specific questions about a plan. I think this is a good lesson for Project Managers and Managers alike: We need to create something to believe in not just something to follow.
Well, hopefully you get the gist of the Magic Bass Player story, and if you get to hear Cass speak I highly recommend it.