When The Going Gets Rough

In September 2009, I was hired as a project manager at a start-up.  The timing was right: I had been unemployed for about six months, and I wanted to get back to a regular paycheck.  Plus, there was my career to attend to.  Enough dilly-dallying I thought: it’s time to get back in the game.

Almost as soon as I arrived though, I noticed that teams had a bad habit: they frequently made promises to their financial backers that they weren’t able to keep. Each month the leads would go to the board and present what they were working on and each month their delivery fell short. The funders were getting frustrated with the teams inability to deliver and the team was anxious to produce something.

As the tension grew, the project began getting more and more convoluted.  The busines party began to focus on their priorities: a product that would certainly make money.  The creative party spent their time working on making something cool that would blow everyone’s minds.  In truth, neither team had a strong solution because a successful product needs to have a little bit of both.

I’m still struggling to understand how to find the balance myself.  When things get particularly stressful I want to just pick one side or the other: either go all creative and be willing to live on the edge, or be all business and be happy without creativity.  I think that it’s probably the tension between the two that keeps us all honest.

As for the start-up, I should have known better.  The project goals were lofty and the track record of success was already spotty before I arrived.  I imagined though, with the right management; they’d have a decent shot at survival.


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