Project Practitioners > Project Dream Management

Project Dream Management

By Michael Aucoin

We recently observed the 47th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, ranked as the top American oratory of the 20th century. It is a remarkable speech, squarely defining and catalyzing the civil rights movement. But it speaks equally to us in the project management community for how to frame and guide the dreams of the various actors who come to a project.

Many times project actors come together with shopping lists to negotiate. "Here are the features we want," "Here's what I'm willing to do." It is a natural approach, and we all do it, but perhaps in doing so we miss the bigger picture.

What if Dr. King had stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and recited a list of grievances or a set of requirements for ensuring equality? Both were real and relevant. No doubt it would have been a good speech, but perhaps not what was needed, and not what it could have been. Dr. King rightly saw the yearning behind the requirements and the belief system that offered guidance for his vision. It was not just his dream, but our dream; he articulated and called upon the universal quest for brotherhood.

Perhaps you can articulate project objectives, specifications or requirements, but what is the dream for your project? In my work with project teams, I often see the desire of individuals to step out of the ordinary and tap into doing something meaningful and worthwhile. We all desire to excel, to serve and to be part of a cohesive team. When a project is framed in these terms, we can rise above negotiating over transactions and see an endeavor to which we can commit heart and soul.

Shopping lists are necessary, and they might even be sufficient for a project to meet its objectives. But shopping lists do not inspire project actors to reach for what a project could be.

B. Michael Aucoin, D. Engr., PE, PMP is president of Leading Edge Management, LLC and author of Right-Brain Project Management (Management Concepts, 2007). He can be reached at

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