Michael Bodell mbodell at hcs.harvard.edu
Thu May 18 01:15:03 EDT 2000

At 12:05 AM 5/18/00 -0400, you wrote:
> >> My suggestion to the membership - pick one thing, and do it well.  Start
> >> up _a_ project in the HCS, and be the force behind it, and get other
> >> people involved, and don't back down.  If you think it's cool, and you
> >> keep at it, so will other people.  But you have to get the momentum going.
> >I think this is the best advice we've seen all evening ;-) A major
> >"problem" with the HCS, as Rick has pointed out, is that it tends to
> >get drawn in too many directions and, as a result, projects tend to
> >peter out.  It also means that people with limited time to devote to
> >the HCS tend to shy away as there aren't any organized, ongoing
> >projects that they can work on and still not be sucked into a major
> >commitment.
>Would people prefer to have say only one project opportunity at any given
>time, such that those that are interested get really involved and those
>that don't just wait until the next one rolls around?

I don't think this addresses the important issue that Rick is talking 
about.  The idea is that for the HCS to be successful it needs leaders of 
projects.  It needs people to take a project and own it and commit to 
it.  Too often there is a project idea, like, wouldn't it be cool if we 
could do foo.  Then some person who thinks foo is marginally cooler than 
the others says I'll look into it, or I'll hold a meeting and at the first 
sign of problems the project is likely to die.  The projects that are 
successful are ones where the person organizing the project is going to 
make it work no matter what.  These people drive projects and the overcome 
the initial boom-bust cycle of projects.  The thing is people who are only 
kind of interested in a project can not be this kind of leader, as it 
demands too much commitment.  The trick is to inspire people to be this 
passionate about an issue or project, or to come up with projects that are 
so incredibly cool that someone can buy on to that extent.

If HCS wants to do projects it needs someone who will say "I will make sure 
that this project gets done.  I will have a working foo ready by February 
come hell or high water".  Now some might say that the HCS doesn't need 
cool projects, that fulfilling the current projects and being social is 
good enough.  Maybe it is, that is up to the members and board.  Second 
semester is also harder than first semester because frequently the second 
semester seniors become much less involved (at least I did, and I think 
others have as well), and the board is newer and needs 
transition.  Hopefully with a energized, stable, and experienced board and 
new first-year recruits there will be a natural bump in energy and ideas.

The challenge in coming up with these driven leaders in projects is 
frequently the people in the society most likely to lead a cool new project 
are busy holding together acctserv, manager, or board.  Frequently these 
people feel like they have enough responsibility in HCS already and don't 
want to commit in the really hard core way to a new project.  A further 
drain on these people is frequently they are involved with work on cool or 
interesting start ups while in school.  If someone has a truly cool idea 
that has application outside the Harvard domain many people may not bring 
it to the HCS but will instead form a start up, or a web team, or whatever 
to execute it outside the HCS.  It is the challenge of the members of the 
society and the board to find ways to discover these leaders and cultivate 
them in the HCS if projects are going to happen.  Ideas I've heard in the 
past include:

- recruit new people based on a cool project they want to do.  This way you 
frequently get energized driven leaders.  A potential drawback though is 
that frequently younger members don't feel comfortable leading, especially 
technical issues, and sometimes older members won't buy in.
- have leaders work in partners so one person can carry another through a 
busy part of the semester, and so both people feel additional 
responsibility as they don't want to let down the other.  The potential 
drawback here is that both members of the team must have the commitment to 
the project to ensure success, and it is frequently hard enough to find one 
potential leader with this commitment.
- have more internalized structure to projects so they don't dissolve as 
fast at first sign of lack of interest.  This could be the board clearing 
obstacle for leaders, or it could be forcing leaders to sign some sort of 
contract to commit to a schedule and deadline in advance.  Potential 
downside of this is that frequently in the past the hcs has preferred to be 
more ad hoc and abhorred structure and deadlines.

Scott, you are right that some of this is seniors looking back on "the good 
old days", and there will be some renewal of HCS as all the seniors leave 
and a fresh class joins the HCS, but realize that much of this comes out of 
a concern of the seniors that the HCS still exist and be vibrant long after 
we graduate.  Don't take all that is said as a flame, but instead realize 
that there is some wisdom to be gained by hearing comments of seniors, and 
even more to be gained by listening to the discussion that ensues.

As Rick mentioned there are questions that get asked frequently to hcs 
members and hcs boards, and thinking about them is important, imho, for 
every member of the hcs, especially board.  Some of them are:

- What is the hcs's mission?
- What are the (interesting) projects that are currently going on?
- What is an hcs member?
- What is the role of projects to the hcs?
- What are you proud about the hcs?
- What is the one thing you wish would change to make the hcs better?
- What can you do to make the hcs better?

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