The Elastic Membership

Project ownership is hard, mostly because it’s hard to own people or their time. I mean, can you really own someone’s tasks or their ideas? At the end of the day, it becomes struggle to own much of anything.

And yet we have lots of projects that seemingly need ownership. None of them will start or finish or continue without someone propelling them along, ensuring responsibility for their continued efforts.

When we own something real though, we get to know it, inside and out. We see how we can use it and who we can use it with, but it is still outside of us. When we try and own a project it becomes a part of us, almost like a child. And there is a danger in that. The danger is in getting too attached that we are devastated and unable to go on when it fails or is taken away from us.

I met with someone yesterday, however, that doesn’t suffer from this troubling trait. She has handled many projects within DPS, creating project plans and requirements documents. She has done all of this without the need for her to call them her children, without the need for to dispair when situations conspire outside of her control. She takes a look at all of the things she has accomplished, is proud of them and goes about the work of finding the bridge from the old landscape to the new one.

It is the ability to move on and to find continuity between the projects that are foist upon us that gives us the ability to become resilient and to have an Elastic Membership with our work.

And that is what Kristy Briggs (of the Academic Product Team) has. She has an elastic membership to her projects and the projects of others, rather than having a project ownership only for her own tasks. The words she uses to describe her projects are ones of excitement, of pulling resources together, and of talking specifically to schools to learn about their needs. And when it comes down to having a project owner she can fill that role too. She can have those conversations about who does what and when. But, her projects do not define her because she is working on something bigger than herself. She is working for the students, and it is apparent in every sentence she says that the students come first. She is the embodiment of the DPS values that are hung around all of our Administrative hallways and our schools.

I do not begrudge people who want to have project ownership or who treat their projects like their children, but I do think that there is room and space for an elastic membership of many projects and the ability for us to see the connections between them rather than only owning the one that we are trying to drive. This elastic membership, however, requires all of us to be members. It requires a community of people, a collaboration that elastically pulls and pushes and snaps back into place.

So, let us form these collaborations. Let us become elastic members of many projects. And let’s redefine ownership to be participation and engagement rather than project planning.

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