open and honest

One of the things I do for a living is design and develop business software.  My favorite project of all time began eighteen years ago at IBM’s Toronto lab on a product called ImagePlus.  We completed the project on time, within budget, and with an unusually low defect rate.  Two doctoral students from the University of Guelph somehow heard about our project and came out to study the team and discover the secret to our success.

Each team member filled out a survey and the researchers interviewed a number of us.  Their finding was eye-opening.  We weren’t successful because of superstar team members or a new breakthrough in management theory.  They felt the keystone of our success was one key phrase that came up on the questionnaire and in interviews: “open and honest communication”.

I heard that phrase several times recently listening to Ed Catmull speak at an event put on by the Economist magazine.  Ed is president of Pixar Studios and was speaking about running a creative company.  He too listed open and honest communication as a key factor in their success.  Working with strong, creative, even eccentric personalities was all part of the job, but the real challenge is calling things what they really are.  Being un-intimidated about saying so when something isn’t working.  Willing to recognize when people are gaming the system. Thick-skinned enough to handle criticism.  Willing to trust the other people in the process to do their jobs while you do yours.  That’s what makes an excellent project team.

And couldn’t we use some of that in the Kingdom of God?

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