The greatest piece of preparation that can be taken to prevent poor project performance is to understand why you are trying to do what you are trying to do in the first place.

The greatest piece of preparation that can be taken to prevent p#?s poor project performance is to understand why you are trying to do what you are trying to do in the first place.

“What a load of old tosh, Prato”, I hear you cry.

Well, if one aspires to be a master black belt Jedi bad-ass Project Manager, one should take heed of this amazing titbit.

Why, why, why? Why indeed.

To understand why the why is so important, let us digress for a minute. Story time .. are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Back in 1962, a nice spritely older gentleman armed with a broom was sweeping the corridors of the building in which he worked, as he had done every day for the past 17 years, with all the purpose and vigour of a world champion cleaner. This gentleman was a gold medal dirt destroyer, a first class rubbish remover – an inspired sweeper of scraps. Busily dancing the hallways like a bolshoi ballet dancer. Despite the decades dedicated to this modest pursuit, he was on it like a car bonnet – as if trying to impress his first love. As he was going about his work, he was approached by a younger gentleman wearing a very sharp suit, flanked by some rather serious looking gentlemen wearing even darker suits, polished shoes and sunglasses (indoors?!) who, had this particular scene played out 30-odd years later, would have made excellent extras for Men In Black.

The younger suited gentleman approached the aforementioned janitor and interrupted his beautiful brushing to confidently ask what would appear to be a seemingly obvious question.

“What do you do here, sir”.

The wise old boy stopped his spectacular scrubbing to answer the man.

“Why sir, I am putting a man on the moon!”.

JFK smiled, nodded, briefly and respectfully held his left hand on the older mans right shoulder and continued his tour of the NASA space agency.

You see, in his speech on 12th September 1962, John F. Kennedy delivered a powerful and inspiring “Why” to the large crowd gathered at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. A “Why” so powerful that it emboldened a species of mammal that only a few thousand years earlier had been huddled in small groups surviving on whatever food they had scavenged that day to pull together in their thousands to propel three men in a small metallic canister outside of their own planet, land on the moon and return safely.

When Human Beings understand their “Why”, they are capable of amazing things. When each member of the group understands “Why” they are being asked to do something instead of simply “How” or “What” to do, they are inspired to achieve wonderful outcomes.

If you are not already familiar with his work, Simon Sinek, a thought leader on "Why" delivered a TED talk and subsequent book which I consider to be required reading to be a successful Project Manager. I suggest that upon completion of this article you immediately do the following two things:

1.    Watch Simon Sinek's TED talk video

2.    Get the book - Start With Why : How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action

Once you understand the why for your project, you will have mastered the first key element to preventing p#?s poor project performance.

Until next time!

About the author

Mark Pratt
Director, Hydrogen Consulting Solutions

Mark is the leading authority on successful Project Management. He does this by sharing his coal-face knowledge on LinkedIn and his Blog. If you'd like to engage his services, Mark is Director of Hydrogen Consulting Solutions and can be contacted here. Mark can particularly help with outcome based engagements to ensure his clients pay for actual delivery rather than the number of days spent!

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