Being both a sports fanatic and project champion, nothing gives me more pleasure than connecting these two. Taking chances, working as a team, switching between strategies, and putting it all on the line.

By Neil Rampton

What better way to demonstrate the value and importance of Project Management than to compare it to a sports game? We all love to watch sports, and for many of us, it’s not just about watching the team pass the ball across the field, we love to watch our favourite teams outsmart, outclass and outmanoeuvre the opponent. 

Think about it, a coach selects a team of players that as a collective have all the skills, knowledge, grit, and strength to get across the line. Sound familiar? Well, that is exactly the value of Project Management, producing a dedicated team of people to work towards a collective and cohesive goal, pushing towards meeting the project objectives and deadlines. 

Having worked for over 12 years in Project Management, both across large organisations and consultancy firms, I can confidently tell you that the same strategies, processes, and methodologies used to drive successful sports teams can be applied to getting your team to effectively deliver a project. 

  1. For your team to win, they need to DEMONSTRATE POSITIVE CHARACTERISTICS

Ego’s aside, just like no soccer game could ever be won with only a single-player, despite someone’s best efforts, this is also true for Project Management. Without complete delegation and teamwork, no project will ever be completed or succeed.

To get the desired result, you need the right team on board to effectively and efficiently deliver the project. Athletes are bound by character, such as being hard-working, committed, and dedicated to seeing the goal through. A good athlete understands that your last performance is what counts, and to be the best takes a team effort. 

To be a good team player, you should demonstrate the following qualities & characteristics:

  • Open & clear communication
  • Resilience & solution-orientated
  • Flexibility & adaptability
  • Strong relationship skills
  • Be driven & inspire
  • Anticipate needs & delegate effectively
  • For your team to reach their goals, they need to BE EMPOWERED

Yes, sport is meant to be fun and filled with comradery, however, the ultimate goal of any game is to succeed and win. Think of it this way, a tennis player doesn’t wake up on match-day with no clue how to hold a tennis racket. Many years are spent perfecting the serve, keeping fit, and getting the relevant experience, so that when you walk onto the court, you are well prepared and understand what you need to do in order to win the match.

Preparation is key to the success of any project, and this comes with clarifying roles & responsibilities, reducing the risk of ambiguity, and ensuring each team member fully understands their role and expectations. Roles are filled based on expertise, experience, and capacity.

  • For your team to work together, LEADERSHIP IS PARAMOUNT

Every sport is different, but the same principles apply to succeed – plan your outcomes, control & maintain your output, monitor your process and progress, and measure your success & performance. Picture this, a bunch of Grade 1 pupils playing hockey, the ball pushes out into the open space and all 14 kids flock to get the ball, ooohs and aahs are heard from the parents in the crowd (or in their cars, thanks to COVID), cheering on their little champions. 

You get my point here right, without clear and direct leadership, a project can very easily have all team members running in the wrong direction, wasting time, resources, and ultimately budget. So, to keep the ball rolling, it’s very often up to the coaches, umpires, and refs to lead and guide the team’s performance.

The coach is there for the half-time pep talks or scrum meetings that inspire greatness. The ‘coach’ in our project is the Project Management Office, and this team consists of Project Managers and Business Analysts. The ‘quarterback’ in the team, is the Project Manager that spearheads ‘Play A’ and ‘Play B’, communicates effectively, leads by example, inspires, and manages risk, budget & time. 

STRIKE – you’re out! Compliance is the referee on the side-line, keeping the team governed properly. The ref consults and advises the team and provides vital guidance and guidelines. In a project setting, the ‘ref’ normally takes the role of a Risk & Compliance Manager or legal representative.

  • For your team to make it across the finish line, you need a PIT STOP

Your F1 pitstop, also known as the ‘daily scrum’ or ‘stand-up’ session is where the magic happens, the collaboration, the energy, the shared value, and the cohesion. This team on the ground is geared to keep the engine moving in the right direction, they also realise that one fault, delay, or oversight could be crucial to delivering on time and within scope. This team is composed of IT, Business, Product House, Designers, and Marketing. 

I hope you can see that Project Management is so much more than just delivering projects, it’s about teamwork, dedication, delegation, leadership, shared value and so much more.

So, I will leave you with this, if you were a die-hard Blue Bulls fan, would you want your team’s fate left to chance, or would you want an orchestra of people working towards getting your team to the top of the charts?

“Trying to manage a project without project management is like trying to play a football game without a plan.”

Katherine Tate

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