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Coordination vs. Collaboration

Yesterday I heard two presentations that might have been arranged one after another on purpose. The first was an endless walkthrough of all of Microsoft Project’s features. “We looked at how teams actually work together,” the presenter said, and then apparently they decided to see how much of the humanity well-designed software could squeeze out of the process. Endless grids, timelines, pie charts, warning flags and drill downs that together constituted informational white noise.

The next presenter talked about how the Pentagon rebuilt itself after 9/11. A “slab to ceiling” renovation was already underway, but the team dedicated itself to restoring the hole in their lives within a year of the attack. Contractors and architects worked together, rather than positioning each other to take the blame for overruns in time and budget as is the usual custom. The “ends” were empowered and given incentives to succeed. Spirits were high. And Walker Evey, the ex-NASA guy who headed the project, showed true leadership.

Now, I have every confidence that the Pentagon restoration project used plenty of Gannt charts, timelines, pie charts and grids to coordinate the activities. For all I know, it used Microsoft Project. But it succeeded because of leadership and dedication…and because its managers didn’t made the common business mistake of confusing the measurement with the measured.

[Note: Please don’t bother writing on the discussion board that you don’t like the Pentagon or what it stands for. Neither do I. But if you can’t appreciate either the suffering the attack inflicted or the admirable aspects of the restoration project, then, well, you might want to do some yoga to try to get the kink out of your self-righteousness.]

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