The House That Jack Built and Jill Tore Down: How To Help, Not Hinder, a Project

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Last weekend I sat at the gym and observed my son construct a tower of foam blocks. After several minutes a few other boys joined him. “What are you doing?” they asked. “Building a tower” he replied. “Can we help?”, “Ok” my son answered. I watched, expecting them to unite and build a grand structure. Instead, for thirty minutes, I looked on as they took turns building a tower and then allow the others to knock it over. They got along but would become frustrated that their project never amounted to more than 5 blocks stacked on top of one another. Eventually I chimed in and suggested they work together to build a castle. There were a few growing pains as they fought over who got the yellow block, but in time they built a rather impressive castle.


I wondered at first if this “destruction” trait was inherent in boys. Perhaps men are compelled to destroy what’s not theirs? As I worked on various projects this week I quickly realized that testosterone has very little to do with it. Within all of us there is pride in ownership and we value what we’ve developed. So often you watch a new employee come into a role and decide that they want to make that job “their own”. They quickly discount everything their predecessor did and have little patience for suggestions. I’ve witnessed many copy reviews result in red pen bloodbaths because the person reviewing the copy didn’t write the copy and they prefer their own tone and voice. I’ve seen project managers rotate on and off of projects deciding to negate the previous project plan. They prefer their methodology, project tools, and project strategy. Because of this they add three months to the project duration and oftentimes overlook scope.

What can be learned from the foam building block exercise is that we should approach historical work and competing ideas as building blocks to develop a larger, more sound, structure. Previous processes, resources, and suggestions are not necessarily bulldozers out to inhibit your success. Of course there will always be growing pains as you introduce new ways of doing things, but if you take a collaborative approach you can also have fun and be successful.

What are other ways you can contribute to a project’s success?


Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.

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