Project Management

Find Your Project’s Story. And Tell It.

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

It’s maddening, isn’t it? You have put just as much time and effort into your project as everyone else. It’s strategically important. You have a sponsor that not only comes to meetings, but actually pays attention. The impacts on the organization stand to be significant once it is done. You’ve sweated over the details; you’ve built schedules, modeled resource availability, parsed out the details of your budgets and built out a tracking capability that lets you know everything that’s going on. Despite all this, it’s the other project—the one that did end-runs around the approval process—that’s getting all the attention and excitement.

What makes the difference? Why does one project whose manager is flying by the seat of their pants get talked about incessantly, while a competently run, capably managed and disciplined effort can’t even get time on the executive’s meeting calendar? In a word: story.

One of the fundamental challenges of engaging with human beings is we are not wholly rational. At times, even barely rational. We make decisions as much or more by emotion and gut feel than we do by logic. Logic is what we use to rationalize the choice after we made it, not how we get to the original decision.

Story is hardwired into our emotional processing. And I mean that quite literally. Suspense …

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