Topic 12.13: A culture of project excellence
The flipside to this, though, is what we refer to as projectitis, an us-versus-them attitude that can develop within organisations (we mentioned this briefly when discussing indirect project stakeholders).
The tendency to assign project teams prestige, perks and even exotic titles, such as ‘Silver Bullets’ or ‘Tiger Teams’, can result in resentment from the rest of the organisation.
This appears to have been the case with Apple’s highly successful Macintosh development team of the mid-1980s.
Steve Jobs, who at the time was both chairman of Apple and project manager for the Mac team, pampered his team with everything from at-the-desk massages, coolers stocked with freshly-squeezed juice, to first class travel.
Jobs considered his team to be the elite of Apple and had a tendency to refer to everyone else as ‘bozos’.
Engineers from the Apple II division, which was the bread and butter of Apple sales, naturally became incensed with the special treatment their colleagues were getting.
One evening at Ely McFly’s, a local watering hole, the tensions between the two camps boiled over.
Aaron Goldberg, a long-time industry consultant, watched from his barstool as the squabbling escalated.
He says… ‘The Mac guys were screaming, “We’re the future!”
The Apple II guys were screaming, “We’re the money!”
Then there was a geek brawl – pocket protectors and pens were flying.’
Although comical from a distance, the discord between the Apple II and Mac groups severely hampered the company’s performance during that era.
John Sculley, who replaced Steve Jobs as chairman, observed that Apple had evolved into two ‘warring companies’ and, referencing the line between North and South Korea, referred to the street between the Apple II and Macintosh buildings as ‘the DMZ’.
Source: Larson & Gray
The lesson here is that project culture can be over-celebrated.
Ensure that there remains a strategic and cultural fit with the ongoing ‘business as usual’ of your organisation.