Part of my week last week found me with a group of project delivery people from across the organisation of one of my clients. The discussion revolved for much of the day around a thorny challenge: the group has been tasked with forming a broader community of practice around project management, but how do you get very task-focused people (like project and programme managers often are) to put attention into something that isn’t on task (like networking as part of a community).

In Adam Grant’s Give and Take he talks about a world that is made up of three sorts of people: givers (people who offer things to others without condition), matchers (people who offer things to others on a quid pro quo basis) and takers (people who just, well, take). Grant’s analysis that Givers fall at the bottom of the corporate success ladders surprises few people. That Givers also fall into the category of the most successful raises more eyebrows. The book goes on to examine how to be an unexploited giver.

It increasingly strikes me that Givers are crucial to networks and communities forming: there have to be some people who up front are willing to devote some time, energy and effort. Without those acts of unconditional investment, progress is slow if not impossible.

Forming communities around a particular discipline within an organisation can happen naturally. But if you want to seed it, why not start by trying to identify the Givers in that community?

I do wonder, though, within the disciplines of project management if Givers might be self-selected out? In a professional environment where all focus is put onto the matter at hand, would the sort of person who is willing to do things off-task survive? And even more so in the world of new forms of delivery where the focus becomes about delivering value as early and as regularly as possible. Value is terribly subjective, but as a result cash value will usually win out above other factors because it’s the easiest to measure.

One thought on “Side projects

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