Friday, March 9, 2007

March 9, 2007 – Project Management Inside the 18

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In soccer, the term “18” refers to the penalty area where the dimensions are 18’ from the goal posts on all sides. It is the home of the goalkeeper. Many years and pounds ago, I was keeper for both my high school and college teams. Now my daughter is learning to play for her team. As I am teaching her how to cut down the angles, dive and protect the ball, I realized that there are many parallels between the role of a goalie and a project manager. I’ll bypass the analogies about getting kicked and shot at and give you 5 practical ways to win.

Keep you head in the game. Soccer is a fast paced game. One minute the ball is on the other third of the field and with one swift kick you are under attack. As a project manager you need to keep focused and looking for threats or risks to both the project and your team.

Set the tone of the game. Team members sometimes start to play reactionary ball and begin to take out their frustration on the referees, the other team and sometimes even on their own players. It is the job of the goalie to bring them back and refocus them on the game. Your project team may get distracted by politics, mistakes or difficulties. You will need to step in and settle them down so they can refocus on the tasks at hand.

Give direction. The best tool a goalie has is not his hands. It is his voice. A good goalie will direct his defense to pick up unmarked opponents, build a wall and start an attack. He doesn’t tell them how to kick the ball, pass or dribble. The players have the skills but the goalie can see more of the field and offer direction. That is your job, too.

Encourage the team. If the goalie spent all game yelling directions at the team they would soon start yelling back. An “excellent clear,” “great hustle” or “nice stick” goes a long way to keeping the team’s energy up. You need to do the same with your resources. Catch them doing something well and then let them know you saw it. Find out what opportunities your company gives to recognize individuals. Upon completion of the project or a particularly tough stretch take them out to lunch.

Be the last line of defense. Ultimately the goalie’s job is to keep the ball out of the net. When your team is under attack from upper management or other groups, it is your responsibility to stand in and take it for the team. Certainly if they have messed up there should be consequences, but their protection is your concern.

Did I tell you that the goalie is the one that tends to get the most bruises? Or the fact that I still have a scar over my right eye where I took a cleat to the head? Probably better if I don’t mention it, eh?

Have a great game!

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