Things turned quiet, because the three of them were stumped. Jane absently swirled what was left of her coffee in her mug. To break the silence, Judith asked, "So you've got the space, but not the money to move the library into that space? Do I have that right, Dave?"
"Right," he replied. "It's idiotic."
Jane stopped swirling her coffee and looked up. "What about a barn raising?"
Dave and Judith stared. They'd heard of barn raisings, but they couldn't make the connection between barns and library moves in high tech companies.
Jane saw their confusion, so she explained. "We can afford cardboard boxes — we just can't afford movers. So we get some boxes, tag them with shelf numbers, tag the shelves, and then get everybody in the building to pack the books, dolly the boxes to the new space, and then unpack them onto the tagged shelves in the new space."
Dave got it. "Brilliant. But where does the barn come in?" Dave was smart — up to a point.
Judith explained. "There's no barn, Dave. It's not a real barn raising, but it's like a barn raising, everybody pitching in."
And for this task, it just might work. What kinds of tasks can we tackle with a barn-raising approach?We can manage some
of the work we do
as if it were a
barn raising, with
everyone pitching in
- The task isn't part of normal operations
- Any task that you do rarely or one time only is a candidate. Culling file cabinets twice a year, or organizing shared laboratory space are good examples.
- Benefits accrue across the organization
- If only a small segment of the organization benefits, a barn raising isn't likely to be viewed as a community project, especially if it's a one-of-a-kind project. But improving a shared facility could work well. For instance, reorganizing or moving a library could be a successful community effort.
- We can apply enough effort in one day to get the job done
- Choose projects that permit the work to be spread over enough people to get it done in one day. The reward of successful completion, with a celebration party, is essential to building a sense of community achievement.
- The task is real rather than virtual
- Even though we have many possible virtual projects in the modern workplace that might be handled with a barn raising approach, real projects are better candidates. They cause people to work side-by-side, where they have opportunities to talk, to meet each other in unfamiliar circumstances, and to form and renew relationships.
Even if you have the right kind of task, organizing a barn raising takes planning and skill. Next time, we'll harvest some knowledge from traditional barn raisings to help make your modern barn raising a success. Top Next Issue
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
Want to learn more about organizing workplace barn raisings? See "Organizing a Barn Raising," Point Lookout for August 9, 2006.
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Abraham, Mark, and Henny
- Our plans, products, and processes are often awkward, bulky, and complex. They lack a certain spiritual
quality that some might call elegance. Yet we all recognize elegance when we see it. Why do we make
things so complicated?
- Management Debt: II
- As with technical debt, we incur management debt when we make choices that carry with them recurring
costs. How can we quantify management debt?
- Team Risks
- Working in teams is necessary in most modern collaborations, but teamwork does carry risks. Here are
some risks worth mitigating.
- Ending Sidebars
- We say that a sidebar is underway in a meeting when two or more meeting participants converse without
having been recognized by the chair. Sidebars can be helpful, but they can also be disruptive. How can
we end sidebars quickly and politely?
- Contextual Causes of Conflict: II
- Too often we assume that the causes of destructive conflict lie in the behavior or personalities of
the people directly participating in the conflict. Here's Part II of an exploration of causes that lie
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 23: Power Distance and Teams
- One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects. Available here and by RSS on October 23.
- And on October 30: Power Distance and Risk
- Managing or responding to project risks is much easier when team culture encourages people to report problems and question any plans they have reason to doubt. Here are five examples that show how such encouragement helps to manage risk. Available here and by RSS on October 30.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.