The best time of year kicked off at 1 PM this past Sunday. That’s right, football season is back! And while certain teams displayed less than promising starts (my beloved NY Giants, cough, cough), it’s great to have football back.
While watching some of the games on Sunday afternoon, I started drawing a number of analogies between football and project management. Anyone who played team sports has surely used a sports-based analogy at some point in their career. But let’s go beyond the cliched, “There’s no ‘I’ in team” and look at what project management lessons can be learned from football.
- Sometimes, you have to go for it. Some of the most memorable plays are ones where teams take a risk and go for it. They go big when a safer option is available. In Super Bowl 44, the New Orleans Saints surprised just about everyone by starting the second half with an onside kick. They could have taken the safer route, and simply let the Colts attempt a drive, but they went big, and won the Super Bowl in part because of that bold move. There are numerous points in every project where you may want to slow down, or opt for a safer route – to not go for that risky on-side kick. But there comes a point in every project, just as on the football field, where you have to make the decision to move forward or, risk derailing the project’s timeline and budget. Is there risk associated with this path? Absolutely, but a good project team will have adequately prepared for those risks.
- Communication is king. On the football field, communication is critical and constant. A coach communicating the plays to a quarterback. A quarterback changing the play at the line based on the defensive set-up. A defense shifting in response. A football team is in constant communication. Not paying attention to the play that’s being called? Well you’re probably the player that’s going to get beat, or miss the pass. A project with poor or missing communications is a project that will fail. Just as football teams have established methods of communication (when Peyton screams “Omaha!” it must mean something), your project team needs to be familiar with the communication methods employed on the project. If project leads aren’t communicating, and project teams aren’t listening then you can guarantee someone is going to blow their coverage, or miss that pass.
- Address issues before they ruin your career/playoff chances/project. It’s tough going for Washington fans as of late. RGIII was pegged to be the team’s savior, but that fairy tale story ended in disaster. Largely because RGIII was allowed to play in a playoff game his rookie season while still recovering from a knee injury. And what happened when RGIII played while recovering? He was injured, seriously injured. Playing with a seemingly minor injury can end not just a season but an entire career. Continuing to a push a project forward when you know there are issues can have an analogous effect. Issues need to be addressed early to prevent escalation that could derail a project. Don’t end your career by playing injured.
- Make use of your players’ skill sets. Great teams are great because they adapt to the skill sets their players bring to the team. They don’t make offensive linemen play receiver, or have kickers positioned on the defensive line. Great teams position their players for success by putting them in roles that match their skill sets. Project teams should do the same. Understand the skill sets that you have within your team and spend some time determining what roles those skill sets would best serve. Is a team member obsessively detail oriented? Consider having them maintain your RAID log (or other issue tracking system). Have someone who is a star at turning technical reports into high-level dashboards for status updates? Make them the liaison with your engineering team.
Looking for project managers who love football? Probably not (but it’s a bonus!). Looking for project managers with talent, experience, and a commitment to delivering exceptional results (they often have a sense of humor too!)? Then get in touch with us today!