An unlikely event holds some direct corollaries to the challenges project management teams face now and then: The World Cup. For soccer teams and fans alike, it’s the playoffs and Super Bowl wrapped into one and it often entails obstacles that really do relate to those sometimes encountered by Project Teams. There are lessons to be learned from the biggest event in the soccer world. When the pressure of the big time hits, use these World Cup comparisons to keep your project team motivated and successful.

world cup and project management

You may not be at your best for the big game. You aren’t always hitting on all cylinders when the pace is at its most feverish. And feverish it can be—the potential side effects athletes often experience from anti-malarial medications are just one concern World Cup players deal with while trying to play their very best. PMP®s must remember that life will continue to happen no matter what’s going on in your project. Kids will get sick, tires will go flat, construction will wreak havoc on your commute, and stress may very well keep you up at night. The good news: This too, shall pass. The bad news: You may just have to grit your teeth and get on with it until things improve.

Your top performers might not be available. Athletes get hurt, sometimes when they’re needed most. As teams ramp up for their turn in the World Cup, some of the best players in the sport will likely be sidelined with injuries. Similar problems occur in project management. Your team’s most experienced PMP® may be assigned to another project. They might have a once-in-a-lifetime vacation planned. Or they could be out on family leave when their expertise would be most helpful. Others in the Project Team must be ready to step up and tackle mission-critical projects no matter who’s on the bench.

Outside forces may interfere when you can least afford it. World Cup contests have been affected by transportation strikes, protests, bad weather, and other factors outside FIFA’s control. But the show must go on, and that’s the case for project teams facing challenges, too. Labor disruptions and material shortages can occur anytime, not to mention unexpected market events and internal catastrophes that make it difficult to keep going. The Project Team’s ability to craft and implement workable contingency plans may mean the difference between success and failure. When potentially show-stopping circumstances happen, your team will need to quickly figure out how to work around them and triumph.

Negative publicity can be an unwelcome distraction. Corruption allegations and other charges are being thrown around this year’s World Cup events, providing team organizations as well as players with significant diversions from what they’re hoping to accomplish. For Project Teams, these distractions can come in the form of internal political struggles or the outside PR circus side shows that sometimes afflict public-facing projects. Designating a public relations point person is the first step, after which your team must band together and put this interference aside in order to continue working toward the project’s objectives.

Superstars often overshadow the successes of the team. Every soccer club has its hero—that player who’s known far and wide for their on-field prowess or off-field antics. Project Teams, too, sometimes have their own superstars with a penchant for looking like Superman to end users (and attention hogs to fellow PMP®s). Successful teams know this is just the public’s perception, bolstered by each member’s ability to achieve success and demonstrate leadership in their respective areas. The trick is to maintain a strong group identity and good morale, skills healthy Project Teams should work to master.