Wanting to be great

Jim says:

“A want is a baby have. People need only join together in stating their goals, visualizing them, planning for them, and securing help from one another to achieve them. This is the heart and soul of teamwork.”

I saw this on a small scale recently – my team worked on an important bug in our software product for more than a year, not making any progress. We wanted to fix it, but we had other priorities too. Which meant that, practically speaking, it wasn’t going to get done, because it wasn’t our single priority.

We didn’t want to admit that to ourselves, though, and so we (and our customers) put up with this nagging pain for too long. Late last year, though, we finally decided we had had enough.

To fix it, a lot had to change. We had to admit to ourselves that we had a serious problem. And we had to expose this problem to our leaders to justify spending the time on it. We had to commit to having no other priorities until we fixed it. And we had to get external help. Fortunately, everyone was pragmatic and supportive! We did a whole release (Mifos 1.4) that was focused on fixing this bug. And of course – we fixed it! And in fairly short order, too. Kudos to SunGard India and Todd Farmer of MySQL for their help.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his office, with a picture of Mohandas K. Gandhi on the wall

I think to myself: what stopped us from doing that a year earlier? I think it comes down to not believing we could do it. Once we believed we could, working together we changed many things to make our want into a have.

I work for a not-for-profit company that is working to end poverty. But I still meet people working in this field who don’t believe we humans can actually end poverty! And I must say, if we don’t believe we can end poverty, we never will.

There are people who did believe we could make a kinder, more just world: Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi believed all people deserved civil rights, and before them Thomas Clarkson and the Quakers believed that people should not be slaves. These beliefs were outlandish at the time. But each of these people believed their movements could be great. And they each sought help – and received it. And prevailed.

Start by wanting to be great.

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