Projects Will Ruin a Healthy Enterprise

And probably the same is true for the health of the people involved! This is a polemic essay about project culture.

A short time ago, I found a nice article (article) in Jens Hoffmann’s blog. It asks whether or not projects make sense. Here are a few interesting citations:

“Projects have outlived themselves. Their days as an organizational form are numbered. Agile Coaches think projects are not suitable instruments for solving entrepreneurial problems. They do not allow customer-oriented value creation and cannot efficiently control permanent change. So what justification is there for projects these days?”

I read the entire article several times and was also busy commenting Jens‘ blog. This inspired me to write a short polemical essay:

Athletic success is probably even harder to generate than entrepreneurial success. Let us take “soccer” as an example. Of course, my favorite club, SpVgg Unterhaching, will serve as the “use case”. And it will be our super team of the 2012-2013 season. The pictures are also taken from their home matches.

I am imagining myself playing the role of the responsible coaches. If they were to structure their projects in terms of projects, then “good night”. They would immediately have (far too) many projects. In each program, there would be any number of comrades and enemies, paid and unpaid employees and consultants. Both desirables (such players’ parents) and undesirables (such as players’ parents).

Let us look at the individual projects: if you play soccer, you know the proverb “after the match is before the match“. Consequently, the next match would always have to be given top priority. It is easy to define the beginning, the end and the goal of the match. The project will start when the n-th match ended and end with the (n+1)-th match (n is a natural number). And it is pretty easy to define the goal: three points. Mostly, our project goals are not that easy to define.

As a general rule, a project lasts for one week. Actually, this is also well within the range of a scrum sprint. Build up the team, motivate and coach the players. Point out what was well done and what was not so good the last time – and then, depending on how the last match ended, either build up morals or de-emotionalize the situation… video analysis, tackling details, etc.

So this was the first project. It also consists of many small sub-projects. A lot must be delegated and the results must be integrated. But so far, everything sounds quite easy.

Except – it will not be good enough to just think in terms of “from one match to the next“. You also have to make sure that all available information about a future opponent is meticulously recorded. Practicing must be made systematic and diverse in many dimensions.

Every player represents (at least) one project. It does not matter if he is a regular player, if he has to be a substitute, or if he was not nominated at all.

Both the inner and outer environment must be considered, opposing interests must be balanced. In between, you also have to think about next year’s team. You have to take a close look at youth matches and try to find local talent.

More and more projects have to be managed. And you always have comrades in arms. Both paid ones and unpaid ones, desirables (such as players’ parents) and undesirables (such as players’ parents). There is no end to stake holders. And you also get many who always know better – not just among the fans.

Such a soccer club has an enormous complexity. And now one should come and do all the planning. He will press it all into processes and then build up a mechanical organization, classical style. So how long will it take before you lose all control?

The system “sports” has so many inter-linked and inter-dependent tasks. If you want to describe them as projects, the classical project manager will soon realize how limited his methods are. And very quickly, the goal “rising to the next level” will be replaced by the striving to retain your current class in the stadium.

First and foremost, the competence of the active team is a determining factor for athletic success. If possible, it should be coupled with a thoroughly felt trust and almost blind understanding between the parties concerned. In particular, the protagonists in the club have to feel well in each others company. They must all have the same goal. Each of them must – instinctively – make the correct decisions and do the right things. Someone must take responsibility. It must all happen in a shared desire to make everything better at all times and to get better at all times. Everybody must feel the shared great wish to win.

But then, where is the huge difference between this and a medium-sized enterprise?


(Translated by EG)


Of course, all these nice pictures were taken at SpVgg Unterhaching home matches (where else?). At the sports park, the photos were taken by Stefan Kukral.


🙂 And tomorrow night, Friday, they will again play – against Darmstadt, at the sports park, starting at 7 p.m. You do not want to miss it!

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