I recently heard that the American author Mark Twain, who died in 1910 is back on the best seller list. This is an amazing phenomena considering that the average person strikes me as an impatient individual who has a bit of an attention deficit. It is indeed a testament to the legacy of the body of work that this author has left behind to be so relevant 100 years after his death.
Perhaps for authors and artists in general this may be the norm. From William Shakespeare to Khalil Gibran, there are many who have left such a mark on the world. There are also those giants in various fields such as science, medicine, and engineering who have had the same type of impact on future generations.
Within the business community there are authors and motivational speakers who have their contribution as well. Peter Drucker comes to mind as an individual who has shaped the modern face of business. Dale Carnegie is another person who’s business writing has had a huge impact for almost 100 years. More recently the business world has seen the phenomena of the larger than life leader who has made and impact on an organization. This list will likely include people such as Bill Gates, Jack Welch, and many others. The list certainly goes on in other fields of history, politics, and others.
For project management, the practice has been around for thousands of years but it is difficult to pinpoint people who have had lasting legacy that long ago. In the recent past, certainly since the founding of PMI and the recognition of the profession, there are individuals who can be pointed out. Among them are the Founders of the Institute.
This topic has prompted a question in my mind. Is it appropriate to think of one’s legacy in the process of doing our job or making our contribution to society? Is it an issue of ego that prompts us to consider this or is it perhaps an issue of sustainability of the contribution that we make? There are probably points to be made on both sides of the argument.
Interestingly enough though in exploring the lives of people of have a major impact on the world, they are often driven by the passion and desire to make things better rather than carve for themselves a space in the annals of history. In talking to some, you may find that they were not sure that their contribution, invention, or work would endure the passage of time.
I don’t know if it is healthy to worry about legacy in the middle of project work. However, a more realistic approach is to ask ourselves if the deliverables we are creating will make a positive contribution on the world on not.
I’d love to hear from others on this topic as well…