And The Oscar For Best Project Goes To... by Guy Butler

I once pitched an Operational Excellence programme to the top team of the company I was working for at the time.

Wanting to make an impact, I came up with a catchy name to emphasise the journey we needed to take.

The pitch day came. Standing at the front of the room, I opened with a story of Julius Caesar crossing a river in order to get to Rome and sort things out.

"This is all about efficiency. Banishing waste and bad processes so we make things simpler for our customers. Effective cross-functional working. And at it's raw, beating heart, it's about continuous improvement. We need to cross our own river. With no turning back to the bad old days!"

"And we'll call it...cue 2 second pause for dramatic effect...Rubicon!"

 

"Whoa whoa whoa! Now just hold on a minute there Guy" - somebody said

"Are we talking about the same Caesar who became a tyrant who killed and enslaved millions?"

"Erm well that's really not quite the point of this" - me

"Well, we don't want to be giving out the message that resistance to change will be given short shrift now do we?"

They weren't playing with me.

"Great point. Of course not. Yes you are of course spot on"

Etc. Etc. For TEN MINUTES. Talking about the RISE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC instead of OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE.

We eventually moved on to the actual point of the Rubicon metaphor but it was an unexpected curveball. 

Over the years I've worked on many different projects. Some of them had memorable names. Here's a selection -

  • Rubicon
  • Unicorn
  • Jocamola
  • Blue Monday
  • Simplicity
  • Swimlane
  • Hilltop
  • Mephisto
  • Streamline

The list goes on...

All great programmes and projects, with great memories of working with great people.

I am sure that we will all have similar memories of interesting project names.

But look. Why do we do this? Why do we have to give names to projects? It's not a pet. It's not a baby. It's not going to be up for an award at the Oscars is it? It's a project. It's a vessel to get stuff done. 

I've worked in some businesses where there are so many project names that I was involved in that I've had to maintain a mental list of what word describes which project or programme. Like a weird game of "Guess Who?"

 

So look call me boring, but let's just stop with the funky, exotic names shall we.

Isn't the best name for a project just a short and sweet description of what you are are actually setting out to achieve and the outcome you want to see?

Like: "Helping our people do more valuable work by untangling operational spaghetti" or "Enabling our sales team to sell more by crafting a seamless customer journey"

You'll save time and help people keep focused. Every time people work on an activity, come to a meeting or see a project update, you'll not so subtly remind everyone why we are all doing the project in the first place.

You can still be fun and engaging - but do it WITHIN the project. You don't really need a quirky project name to do all that do you?

Now just for a bit of fun what's the best project name you've ever worked on? 

----------------------------------

Guy Butler is a Global Business Transformation Consultant at Sage. He is an interim Transformation Consultant, with over 23 years’ experience driving transformation and change management programmes in a variety of industries with particular focus on global tech businesses.

Guy’s favourite quote is “Transforming isn’t about improving, it’s about re-thinking” (Malcolm Gladwell); here at the BTN we couldn’t agree more!