In This Issue: How Big Is Your Project World?

By Todd Post

How big is your project world? Is it big enough to contain other cultures, headquarters, hierarchies, and weird harpoon-like guns? Sure it is. The great American poet Walt Whitman said it best, “I am large/I contain multitudes.” And so must you, Mr. and Ms. Project Manager.

In this issue of ASK, we look outside the project box. See how several talented project managers have expanded their definition of project scope to include managing environments outside the systems and subsystems under their care.

Here’s a sampling of what we’ve put together for you this issue:

In “Three Screws Missing,” Mike Skidmore tells about his adventures at the Plesetek Cosmodrome in northern Russia. Mike was Project Manager of the NASA contingent on this joint-sponsored research mission with the Russian Space Agency. A winter launch made working under stressful conditions unavoidable. Read how a good project manager who wants to get the job done no matter what has no choice but to adapt.

Ray Morgan in his story, “Our Man in Kauai,” suggests we take a broader view of what’s meant by “the team.” On Ray’s project, the Pathfinder solar-powered airplane, his definition of the team was not satisfactory if all this meant was the folks on salary. Read how Ray and his NASA sponsors worked with the native peoples in Kauai to achieve a high-altitude, world-record flight, and why it might never have occurred without everyone working together.

Jenny Baer-Riedhart, the NASA program manager on the same Pathfinder solar-powered airplane, schools us in how to sell a program to Headquarters in “Know Thyself — But Don’t Forget to Learn About the Customer Too.” Prior to its amazing trajectory into the stratosphere, Pathfinder might never have gotten off the ground had Jenny been working less diligently to gain the support of Headquarters.

Scott Cameron of Proctor and Gamble, one of our two regular Feature writers, talks about sharpening your hierarchical IQ in “The Hour Glass and the Project Manager.” See how you measure up when it comes to working with your hierarchy. Learn from Scott’s 30 years of project management experience on getting along better with hierarchy and thus increasing the odds of your project’s success.

Mike Jansen in “The Lawn Dart” describes how he and the “voodoo crew” on the Space Shuttle Advanced Solid Rocket Motor program borrowed a harpoon-like gun from the Coast Guard to catch particles inside of a plume. Why? Because they thought it would work. Find out if it did. How big is your project world? In this case, apparently, as large as your imagination will allow.

These are just some of the stories you’ll find in ASK this issue. We hope they cause you to stop and reflect on your own project’s relationship to the world outside. We are also launching a new section this issue, “There are No Mistakes, Only Lessons.” No stranger to ASK readers, Terry Little inaugurates this new section with his article “The Don Quixote Complex.”

Hope you find plenty of learning opportunities this issue. Let us know what you think.

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