Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Play's the Thing

My wife and I saw Richard III last night at the Intiman Theater in Seattle. Usually when I watch a Shakespeare play, I try to read it beforehand in order to acclimate myself to Ye Olde English. Well, didn't get around to it this time and I was a bit nervous. Sure I know the basic plot, but the story is not the thing in Shakespeare, its the transcendent meaning. After all, Richard III was written more than 400 years ago and there we were finding a parking spot for the car, purchasing the tickets with a credit card and turning off our cell phones. Yet here there we were in 2006 watching a play written in 1592 about events in the late 1400s. How does that work?

It's all in the presentation.

Well, not all in the presentation, for Shakespeare's genius does in fact capture inimitable truths about human nature as few ever have. But given the raw text and minimal direction of his long-ago creation, the production company and the actors have to make it accessible to the modern day audience. Accessibility is distinct from relevance. Shakespeare's timelessness, and perpetual timeliness, is the result of of his relevance. Sure we may have cars, credit cards and cell phones, but basic human frailties haven't changed much over the years.

It's how we present and communicate the play's relevance that makes the production successful or not. Things change over the years-- wherefore becomes why, thou becomes you and thee becomes y'all. Their dress looks a little funny (can't wait to see what our low-slung pants around the ankles style looks like 400 years from now), and not many people speak in a rigorous meter anymore. But even with all this, a well-delivered 'Thou poisonous bunch-back'd toad' is still a dandy insult.

There are also many things much older than Shakespeare's illustrious plays that maintain their relevance even as their presentation changes. Money, for example. How many shells with holes in the middle do you have in your pockets right now? OK, how about nickels then? You can even see changes more recent than that. When is the last time you wired money to anyone? Western Union used to have an awesome business, but they missed the boat when checks and credit cards made their appearances. Speaking of checks, do you think we will still have them in another 50 years? Maybe just for fuddyduddies like me.

Which brings me, of course, to Project Management. How long do you think that's been around? Probably around the time people started dividing up work in order to gather food is when Homo Projectus proclaimed his first milestone. Over the millennia the projects may have gotten more complex and esoteric, the tools more sophisticated and overwelming and the deliverables more abstract and ineffable, but who here among us didn't feel a certain primordial, ancestral satisfaction when they wrote their milestone date down in stone?

Can you make Project Management more accessible? Far from tilting at windmills, we think you can. And the power of bringing it to everyone will enable teams to do more than ever before. We are but the production company doing our best to provide intelligible tools and a few interpretations of what it means for a team to collaborate on a project.

Indeed the play, or the software, is the thing.

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