All football games are not created equal; some matter more than others. Consider regular season games compared to the playoffs. In the regular season, teams have a standard weekly preparation—they develop strategies for the immediate challenge ahead, and attempt to execute their plan each Sunday. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. And though each game is slightly different, the preparation and execution are relatively similar. As the season marches on, some teams get very good at executing their plan while others flounder. These weekly engagements are similar in concept to a company’s routine “utility” projects—those keep-the-lights-on projects that teams do time and again. Through the repetition of planning and executing these projects, teams get comfortable in the routine, with little assistance needed to get ready for the next week.
Some project management professionals become so good at the weekly projects that they make it to the “post season”, which is an entirely different challenge. During the “regular season”, a potential project failure is not the end of the world—they’ll live to fight another week, and probably be offered similar projects again. But one wrong move during the playoffs and the season comes to an end. A company’s strategic projects are the business equivalent of the playoffs. These are the projects that carry a higher degree of financial consequence, a greater level of executive visibility, and hold more market importance. Simply put, these projects cannot afford to fail. As stated during an interview with Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, “The difference between this week’s playoff game and a regular season game is that this playoff game has a lot more scrutiny, a higher degree of visibility, and we have a lot more at stake.” Sound familiar?
A company’s strategic projects are like the NFL playoffs. There are no second chances if the project fails. By their nature, strategic projects come along only occasionally, just as even the best NFL teams only make it to the playoffs every few years. Because of this elevated level of importance, you need to arm your teams with advanced project management tools, utilize more rigor in your planning processes, boost your teamwork and communication, and execute the project with pinpoint accuracy. Preparing your team with these skill sets will guarantee a successful run through the project management playoffs!