How to get people to care about your project

Ever wonder why you work 10+ hours per day to get your large and complex project done on time, only to find it was late because other people just didn't put their hearts into it? A project is something we're assigned to. It has some deliverables, milestones, timelines, a budget, team members, and an end customer. Most of the time, that's all team members know about our projects. The project charters are boring and technical. Some read it once, while many never see it. It's no wonder we don't understand why we do projects.

What if we made our project more personal? What if we knew the project's clear purpose and bought into it? What if it had a personal story?

We go to the movies to get moved by the story. If it's good, it can really touch our emotions. The same applies to products we buy from brands like Nike, Apple, Starbucks, and others that have presented a clear story behind their business. People who work at these companies tend to have more passion than employees at other companies.

Before reading further, review the definition of a brand story and why you need to tell it on Bernadette Jiwa's page. Bernadette is a well-known blogger, book author, and brand consultant. I have her book, "The Fortune Cookie Principle", which I highly recommend. The main message for large projects is that, rather than a project being a "commodity" (one on a list of many), you can make it into something that has it's own emotional purpose that people will care about and buy into.

Imagine the power of our projects if our team members and stakeholders had passion or at at least a shared vision for making achieving success. If our projects have their own brands with clear value and purpose that people believe in, they will become more successful. People will perform better. They will put more heart into their work.

To get started, consider providing a narrative for your project's description. Place this story in locations that are accessible and visible by all team members. In PIEmatrix, a good place would be the project's description field.

  1. The Purpose. Describe the ultimate purpose for your project. Example: “This project’s output deliverable is a new system that will give our end customers a faster and more personal experience when they purchase our products."
  2. The People. Share some background about this project, who got it started, and who’s part of it. Example: “Tanya Harris from Customer Support was instrumental in getting this initiative started. Her vision and business case was powerful and we look forward to working with her team as we define requirements. Luke French was chosen as our project manager because of his past experience with CRM systems. He’s excited to be working with the project team. Ask him about his favorite hobby and I'm sure you will be surprised.”
  3. The Sharing. Explain how the team can provide feedback to make the project’s process content even better. Include all of your contact information and encouragement for input. Also, encourage everyone to collaborate and share knowledge.

Next is to spread this information every where you can during the project. Revisit the purpose in every staff meeting. Show how it is relevant  and consistent to what you are doing this week. Celebrate how the team members and stakeholders have contributed to the purpose. Explain how the process just got a tad better and who stepped forward with innovative ideas.

Don't forget to not only tell the story, but also work on "storydoing" as described by Ty Montague in his recent HBR blog post.

Good project stories get us involved. They touch us personally. We become part of the project brand. We put our heart into it.

I would love to hear about your own story about your project, how you have shared its purpose, and what impact the team members made in making it more successful.