Reaching the elite Final Four is the aim of every college basketball team. From the beginning of the season through the last few games, players and coaches focus on tapping into that elusive top tier of performance to achieve the very best results.
Though project teams don’t usually have the same competitive structure that lends itself to playoff brackets and NCAA winners, there are still many lessons a Project Team can take from the push toward the Final Four. The same strategies applied on the basketball court can be immensely useful as PMP®s work toward repeatable project success.
Balance teamwork with individual performance
Star basketball players get all the limelight, but the attention garnered by those key personalities helps the school recruit quality athletes and coaches. Successful squads, however, know that no one reaches the Final Four alone—the contributions of every individual on the team are required for success. Everyone must work together to ensure the right skills are leveraged at the right time, and that areas where those star players are weak are augmented by the strengths of other members of the squad.
Project teams function in a similar manner, with a few PMP®s acting as the public face of the Project Team and other members working in background functions. Each role is important and the potential for long-term success can be put into jeopardy if that balance isn’t carefully managed. Those who face scrutiny from high-ranking stakeholders must continue to be held accountable to the rest of the team, and members whose areas exist behind the scenes must be eligible for accolades when their efforts exceed expectations. Only with everyone working together will project success happen.
Know your team’s personality
No matter the sport or the industry, every team has its own unique identity. It’s a phenomenon that allows for valuable flexibility in taking advantage of particular skill sets and overcoming certain challenges. High-performing basketball teams are very good at playing to their strengths and avoiding weaknesses, such as a squad that scores early in the game to mitigate the damage that may result from their lack of stamina. Or a team that puts their energy into offensive strategies because they know their defensive line isn’t as strong.
Take the same approach with your Project Team and strive to maximize those areas where you excel. Evaluate your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Are your PMP®s exceptionally good at managing resource level? Look for ways to capitalize on that skill when funding is lean. Does your team need to nurture stronger relationships with key sponsors? Work on that skill set now so you’re better at it when support begins to sag. By understanding where your Project Team is most successful, you will improve your results even as new challenges arise.
Think long term
No team reaches the Final Four from winning just one game. As it is in project management, a squad’s long-term success hinges on the ability to perform well every time. Each effort a basketball team undertakes, both on the court and off, must contribute to this strategy. That may include spending time on activities such as improving communication between players and coaches, or helping players better identify opportunities to disrupt the other team’s plans.
Project Teams should also think in these terms as they work to boost their performance in ways that will help support repeated success in future projects. Even if stakeholder engagement is strong today, for example, the team needs a plan to sustain that across future projects, too. The same strategies should be applied to problems, which can fester and create ongoing challenges if they aren’t addressed effectively.