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Saturday, April 16, 2011

But what do you DO?

Farmer.  Teacher.  Cop.  Firefighter.  Engineer.  Doctor.  Builder.  Developer.  Artist.  Grocer.  Scientist.  Soldier.  Sailor.  Airman.  Marine.  Writer.  Butcher.  Baker.  Candlestick maker.

What do you do for a living?

If you can't describe what you do for a living in one word, you're not a producer.  You're not bringing anything to the table.  If you can't describe what you do in one word, you're making a living off of the labors of others, suckling at the teat of those around you.

The more words in your title, the further removed you are from actually producing something of value to society.

Don't believe me?  Try this one:

Chief Executive Officer.

Now that's a doozie of a title.  But what does a CEO actually produce?

This doesn't mean that you're gonna get rich in a one-word profession.  But is that the point?  To get rich?

The day after Ayn Rand's bellwether novel, "Atlas Shrugged," finally made it to the big screen is as good a time as any to ask yourself this question.

What's your purpose?  What do you do?  What is it that you're producing to sustain yourself?

Now, I'm a Project Manager and Director of IT Security for a Fortune 500 company.

But what the hell do I do?

Over the years, I've shifted gears and changed directions so many times I have no idea what the hell I am professionally.  Every time I get a new job--almost always for more money and more "prestige"--my mother asks me the same question over and over again before she understands (or just gives up and just smiles and nods):  what it is exactly that you do?

Her father was a farmer.  Her husband was a teacher.  Her grandson is a scientist.  Those are easy professions to understand.  Her father farmed.  He produced food to feed his family and that had value to others, hence he made his living selling what he produced.  Her husband taught children the skills they would need to go forth and enter one-word professions, if they chose to do so.  Her grandson--my son--conducts research that will benefit mankind long after his time on this mortal coil has ended.

But what about her son?  He directs the activities necessary to ensure the security of data and information, as proscribed by the government agencies with which his company does business, and manages the projects that support these business activities.

I'm more ashamed by that than I was that time she caught me masturbating in the back seat of our Oldsmobile station wagon after church when I was 13.

So what's next?  What new gear can I find and what new direction shall I take that will move me toward doing something for a living that I can explain in one word to my mother?

That's the challenge facing me today.  I've reached the point where it's no longer OK to chase a buck for the sake of having a buck.  I want to do something that will matter, that brings value to myself and those around me.  I want to produce.

Life is not something that happens to you.  Life is the product of how you live.  The choices you make and the actions you take are your life.

I want mine to matter.

Wish me luck.  It's time to finally do something.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Even Keanu Reeves ain't falling for this

Two of the most frightening words a Project Manager can hear:

"Matrixed organization."

While the concept of assigning members of one team to support a project is fine on paper, too often organizations confuse "matrixing" (assigning a person full time to support another organizational element's objectives) with "jam more crap down people's throat while taking no organizational accountability for the successful completion of the project."

Frankly, if matrixing an organization were such a good idea, don't you think combat units would give it a go?

Coming soon:  A systems approach to building project a project TEAM.