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March Madness and Project Management
By Ty Kiisel

It’s hard not to get excited about NCAA basketball and March Madness this year. Of course it doesn’t hurt that Brigham Young’s Cougars are ranked #3 at the beginning of March (despite some of the off-court drama). This may very well be the best Cougar team since their appearance in 1981 against Notre Dame.

That’s probably the reason I’ve turned to a sports metaphor today. As a young athlete, there were many lessons I learned from my coach while swimming laps in the pool that continue to serve me today (despite the fact that there’s no way I could ever fit into my old Speedo). In fact there are a few things that I think apply very well to the way we manage work:

  1. Good coaches have a game plan: I’m sure there are a number of teams going into the tournament this year who believe they have a chance at making the final four or even winning. A project without an objective, or an un-articulated objective, probably doesn’t have any better chance of success than a basketball team without a game plan.
  2. Great coaches align individual goals with the game plan: Articulating the objective is just the first step. The real key to project success is getting everyone on the team motivated to achieve individual goals that contribute to team success.

  3. Drills are important: Sometimes we assume that everyone on the team knows what they’re doing. This isn’t always the case. A good coach knows the strengths and weaknesses of the team and creates drills or exercises to strengthen the team’s weaknesses. It’s important to give team members opportunities to learn and improve their skills.

  4. Great teams need the right people in the right roles: It’s really easy to fall into the trap of filling a job role instead of filling a talent void. Everyday organizations turn away excellent talent because they rigidly adhere to arcane notions that titles or education are the ultimate measure of someones ability to effectively contribute. Avoiding that trap might make it a little more challenging to find the right person to fill your talent void, but it’s well worth the extra effort.

  5. Use the appropriate communication style for the audience: The best coaches know the best way to talk to individual athletes to motivate and inspire them. I think we’ve all probably been in situations where it’s not what you say, but how you say it.

  6. Don’t forget to celebrate the victories: In the grind of day-to-day work, sometimes achievements go unrecognized because of the pressure of the next objective. A good coach knows that it’s important to take the time to celebrate a win. It helps the team (and the workforce) feel like they’ve accomplished something. Otherwise, the job becomes a never-ending death march (which nobody appreciates).

Take a lesson from the coaches as you watch your favorite team during March Madness. You might pick up a few things that will help you be a better project leader.

About Ty Kiisel

Writing about project management for @task gives Ty the opportunity to share his personal experiences as an “accidental” project manager along with the lessons learned from conversations with customers, hopefully demonstrating that it really doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, the rewards of successfully executing project-based work are universal.

About @task

@task helps organizations focus on being more effective, innovative, and more competitive with a rich project and portfolio management solution that enables decision-makers to maximize their resources by implementing those initiatives that provide the greatest business value. @task helps align the strategic goals of objectives with the implementation and execution goals of project teams.

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