PM & Team Sports: Common Ground & Lessons Learned
March, when I wrote this article, is an exciting time in the sports world. The NFL Super Bowl is a still-fresh memory, Major League baseball teams are in spring training, NBA basketball and NHL hockey are in full gear, the NCAA basketball tournament (March Madness) is in progress, and in some years discussions about the Soccer World Cup and the Olympics are rampant. While Project Management relates to work and sports to play, there are many commonalities between them, and some lessons learned about Project Management can be derived from how sports teams are built, coached and managed. Professional sports especially have become big business, and the desire to win has caused professional teams to adopt some leading management approaches that are similar to Project Management techniques. This article is intended to highlight some typical Project Management issues and how to deal with them, through this analogy.
Some projects succeed and others fail, with all shades of gray in between. While there are many reasons for project failures, my experience shows that the reasons are less often a result of technical execution, and more often a failure to execute some of the Project Management basics. Further, many of the basics that are overlooked or under-executed are those that may not appear on the project plan, and that are primarily the role of the Project Manager (PM) to execute. By no means should the Project Manager be a scapegoat for project issues, but the PM does have a key role to play, and must execute that role for the project to succeed.
To help examine this, I will use the analogy to a sports team. Most of us have some interest in team sports, at either the professional or the amateur level, somewhere on the scale from mild interest to fanatic. Sports teams demand teamwork from a group of people, there are clear leaders on and off the field, the games require strategies and tactics, and there are clear obstacles to overcome. More to the point, sports require attention to what you are doing (call this offense), what your opponents are doing (call this defense), and sometimes help from specialists (call this special teams).
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