And The Oscar For Best Project Name Goes To…

I once pitched a new programme to the top team of a company I was working for at the time.

I wanted to make an impact. So I came up with a catchy name for the programme.

The pitch day came. I stood in front of the team and opened with a story of when Julius Caesar stood on the banks of a Roman river ready to cross to Rome and sort things out.

“This programme is all about no turning back, casting the dye, banishing waste and bad work practices and making things simple for our customers”

“And we’ll call our programme…cue 2 second pause for dramatic effect…Rubicon!”

“Whoa whoa whoa! Now just hold on a minute there Guy” one of the directors said.

“Are we talking about the same Caesar who became a tyrant who killed and enslaved millions?”

“Erm well that’s really not quite the point of this” I replied.

“Well we don’t want to be giving out the message that resistance will be given short shrift now do we?”

They weren’t playing with me. This had turned serious. Danger danger!

“Great point. Of course not. Yes you are of course spot on”

Etc. Etc. For TEN MINUTES. Talking about the RISE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC instead of OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE.

We eventually moved on to the actual point of the metaphor but it was an unexpected curveball.

Over the years I’ve worked on many different projects. And some of them had some memorable names. Here’s a selection –

  • Rubicon
  • Unicorn
  • Jocamola
  • Blue Monday
  • Simplicity
  • Hilltop
  • Mephisto
  • Streamline

The list goes on…

All great programmes and projects, with great memories of working with great people.

I am sure that we will all have similar memories of interesting project names.

But look. Why do we do this? Why do we have to give names to projects?

It’s not a pet. It’s not a baby. It’s not going to be up for an award at the Oscars is it?

It’s a project. It’s a vessel to get stuff done.

It’s all getting a bit old isn’t it? I’ve worked in some businesses where there are so many project names that I’ve had to maintain a mental list of what word describes which project or programme. Like a weird sort of “Guess Who”

It gets really tiring really quickly.

So look call me boring, but let’s just stop with the funky, exotic names shall we.

Isn’t the best name for a project just a short and sweet description of what you are are actually setting out to achieve and the outcome you want to see?

Like “Making customer billing better” or “Reducing follow up calls”

I promise you, your colleagues will thank you. You’ll also save time and help people keep focused.

Every time they work on a task, come to a meeting or see an project update, you’ll not so subtly remind people why we are all doing the project in the first place.

You can still be engaging – but do it WITHIN the project. You don’t really need a quirky project name to do all that do you?

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