I just finished a new book by Seth Godin entitled Linchpin.  It was a very thought provoking book about the realities of today’s job market and worldwide industry outlook. 

In this book, Seth defines a “linchpin” as a person who is “indispensable” to an organization.  A “linchpin” is a person who acts as an “artist” by:

 (1) creating and sharing new organizational knowledge;

 (2) facilitating effective connections among colleagues;

 (3) helping develop creative responses to sustain the organization going forward; and

 (4) facilitating the organization by dealing with complex and often nonlinear system dynamics issues that, if unaddressed, may hinder sustained growth. 

While Seth did not specifically address whether this concept could be successfully applied to project managers, there is no reason why these basic concepts would not apply.  The only difference might be the very nature of projects, which are themselves defined by specific timetables, with start and finish dates.  In applying the lessons of Linchpin to the discipline of project managerment, it is more effective to focus on the project manager’s contributions to the overall corporate environment, rather than his or her contribution to an individual project. 

When I read the book, it reminded me of a scenario I experienced about twenty five years ago, when I had just been promoted to Manager, Manufacturing Performance Reporting and Analysis, in the Controller’s staff of ARCO Products Company in Los Angeles.  One day at lunch, the Controller (who was my Manager’s boss) stopped by my office for a brief chat.  We had not had much time together since the promotion, and he wanted to provide his insights as to how I could “be recognized” in the organization. 

His advice to me was to do something “extraordinary” that would use my unique talents and would be recognized and applauded by ARCO Management.  He told a short story about how, a short time earlier, he had himself been recognized.  At that time, ARCO was in the process of building a new natural gas fired cogeneration facility at the ARCO Los Angeles Refinery.  The Controller was on the finance staff, and offered a creative financing idea for the new cogeneration facility based upon his previous work with the financial community.  Management had endorsed his initiative, and it had saved the Company quite a bit in total financing costs, as well as put the Company in a better position to pursue a joint venture with the local electric utility in Southern California. 

The Controller’s advice to me was to look for something similar that would leverage my unique talents in “engineering” and “venture development.”  You might say it was an early “linchpin” pep talk.

That was extremely good advice.  And it is advice that applies equally well to project managers in their day-to-day project work.  Look for those contributions that are unique to your talents and which will be recognized for their value to the entire organization, and not just to the single project on which you are focusing at that time.  While that may seem like a tall order if you are a project manager who is “up to his rear in alligators” everyday,  today’s market requires that you invest in making yourself “indispensable.” 

How does that saying go?  “The markets may be strong or weak but strong people will endure.”

Nurture the four abilities of a linchpin that I summarized from Seth’s book in the introductory paragraph.  You have the ability to become an  “artist” and to “share” your gifts with the rest of the organization. 

I would like some feedback on this post from those who have experienced similar scnarios.  Are there “linchpins” around you whom everyone recognizes as being “indispensable” to the organization, and yet no one really stops to acknowledge or applaud them?   While they may be the unsung heroes of our project ventures today, they will be the glue that sustains the organization going forward.

Thanks for your support!!!!!

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