For the last four months, I’ve been part of a project team building a computer system for doctors. It’s been a revelation being part of this project and has shown me what’s possible in working. What fun, what commitment, what team spirit! People have been willing to be available at all times of the night and the weekend to make it work. There have been Indian feasts cooked by members of the team, and most days we laugh until we cry over some funny, absurd thing that has happened.
The person who’s created it is the project manager. I’ve never before come across such a gifted leader. She has many extraordinary qualities and I want to tell you about two of these qualities.
Firstly, she cannot be stopped. Every day of the project, she’s been faced with numerous breakdowns: developers who haven’t delivered when they promised, or have delivered something full of mistakes, people letting her down generally. She will get annoyed for a few minutes – a few minutes! – and then she’ll set herself to work on finding a way around it. Within half an hour, she will have let go of any reaction and developed a solution that is often better than the original.
Each time there’s a stuff-up, somehow she plucks victory out of the air. As was said of the famous Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton, hailed as one of the greatest leaders to have lived, she is constantly “shaping herself to the next mark”.
Secondly, she is completely available to each and every member of the team. She doesn’t sit in an office, but next to us and purposely so. No matter what she’s doing, we know we can ask her anything and she’ll drop what she’s doing and give us her full attention. She can turn on a sixpence, and without missing a beat, give herself wholly and without reservation to the matter at hand. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s phenomenal.
The project is coming to an end because the system has been successfully implemented, and we’ll be sad to be disbanded. I know I won’t be alone in treasuring the experience for a long time to come.
Image: courtesy of The Guardian: Thiruttani, India: Rupa, 28, has her hair shaved so she can donate it to the gods at the Thiruthani Murugan temple. Rupa donated her hair with the wish that her daughter’s illness be cured. The process of shaving one’s hair and donating it to the gods is known as tonsuring. The “temple hair” is then auctioned off to a processing plant and sold for wigs and weaves in the US, Europe and Africa; Photograph: Allison Joyce/Getty Images