The Assassin of Discontent – A Great Project

In March 1963 Boeing assembled a group of engineers to create the world’s largest passenger and cargo aircraft, the Boeing 747. Almost 6 years from the day that group was formed, the first 747 took the sky on its maiden flight. How many people were in attendance? You’re right. All of them.  It was a great project.

747-first-takeoff_ip

At Boeing,staff turnover was minimal, retirements foregone, sick days few and no one knew what a labor dispute was. The reason for that was that everyone understood they were doing something great. The 747 fleet has now flown more than 3.5 billion people, more than any other aircraft ever made.

Let’s look at another mega-project; the $12 Billion 54-mile underground Waxahachie  Texas Superconducting Super Collider (SSC).

n15shaft

“The what?” you say. Yes, the R&D facility to propel High Energy Particle Physics into the next generation of discovery for Medical Diagnostic Techniques, Cancer Therapy, Superconducting Cable Technology, Very Large Scale Integrated Circuits and  a Greener world. Well those are just some of the potential pay-offs but here’s what was actually communicated to the public. “The ultimate benefits to society are not fully known at this time; however, from experience we know that there will be large payoffs”

Over $2 Billion was invested in the project since 1983 while the cost estimates for completion grew from $4 Billion to $12 Billion to complete it, many of the key scientists and researchers left for other organizations and the project was cancelled in 1993 by the US Congress and now sits abandoned.

Let’s keep in mind the 747 and the SSC.  There are four key factors to a great project.  

  747 SSC

The Challenge

Yes

Yes

The Inspiration

Yes

No

Belonging to a Team

Yes

No

The Plan  & the ability to see the win

Yes

No

Any great project has a great challenge, whether its building the world’s first jumbo or reinventing how retail lending IT works. You can create a great challenge on just about any project.  Any great project has inspiration. Boeing’s Malcolm Stamper led 50,000 people in the race to build the 747 jumbo and in four years in the middle of the build he took a single day off, one Christmas. Stamper and his Chief Engineer Joe Sutter apparently had regular face to face meetings with every engineer. There were over 5,000 engineers on the project. On a great project everyone feels they belong to a team. It is an error to scoff at the importance of a ball cap with a project logo on it or the importance of full team lunch at the achievement of a critical milestone. These types of activities build team identity, one where the people will gladly go the extra mile for the team.  Boeing has not forgotten 40+ years later with the 747-8 and others.

747 Boeing-Tanker

On a great project there is a plan visible to all on how to achieve the win. The build of the original 747 was not without its trials and tribulations. Lots of new technology needed to be invented, but within months of starting everyone knew exactly what design miracles were required and when these miracles had to be delivered.

A great project – the assassin of discontent. If you want your IT team to be content, to be eager to get into work in the morning and enjoy the work, create a great project for them to work on. Any project can have the 4 keys to make it great.

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