Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - Soccer Strategies

Soccer Strategies for Project Management

By Christopher Scordo PMP, ITIL

Soccer is a quick moving, strategic sport. Very much like managing the team at your office, you have to think about the long term outcome and the immediate dangers to your objective and take quick evasive action. Taking a look at these strategies can inform and improve our methods for dealing with progress (and lack of it) on your team.

Going Offsides The offside rule can be confusing, but part of it is forcing a player offside. Sometimes when managing a project things get completely out of bounds. It might not be deliberate, but it can happen from time to time. Whether it’s a client requesting something which wasn’t part of the original scope or changing their minds at the last minute, sometimes things can go offside and play is stopped. You then have to restart the game- sometimes with the opposition getting a free kick. The worst case scenario is that you’re offside and a goal you thought you had achieved is disallowed. The important thing to remember is that the game is still on and getting your team together to regroup is crucial. When it comes to project management, regardless of how things went awry, it’s important to get back to working as soon as possible. Readjust your strategy and don’t waste your teams’ time getting restarted.

Position Your Team Wisely Sometimes a player gets put in a position with which he’s not entirely comfortable. Whether it’s a forward being played as a winger or a mid-fielder playing defense – when a player isn’t playing in his natural role, he won’t perform as well as he should. As a project manager, it’s important for you to see and utilize your players’ natural abilities and put them in a suitable position. It’s tricky and it will take time, but it will make all the difference in the effectiveness of your team.

You Aren’t Playing The Game – Your Team Is Soccer team managers have a frustrating job. They watch the performance of their team from the sidelines without being able to direct in the moment. They’ve trained the team to do certain things and sometimes, things simply don’t go as anticipated. As a project manager, remember that your team is made up of professionals and while they need the guidance of their project manager, you are not the one playing the game. You play a vital part in helping them where you can, but never try to do their jobs for them – even if they have some peculiar ways of making it to the goal.

Goalkeepers are a vital part of the team Goalkeepers play a very important role in soccer, sometimes they don’t get much of the action, but when they do – they have to be prepared and precise. Managing a project is much like being the hawk-eyed goalkeeper who is watching and evaluating every move on the field. The project manager role includes both providing consistent guidance and taking decisive action on behalf of the team to block an impending threat to the projects’ goals.

We can learn a lot from sports – it’s a great example of people earnestly using their physical skills combined with mental focus to achieve a goal. Just like soccer, projects are a team game and being a successful project manager means having a successful team. As the manager, you are not a spectator. Dedicating yourself to sharpening your skills and focus will help you keep your eye on the ball so you can effectively guide and even intervene for your team.