Kick The Field Goal! What American Football Can Teach Us About Project Management

With the NFL season about to begin I thought I would share a project management lesson I learned many years ago from, oddly enough, watching an NFL telecast. The color analyst was the legendary John Madden.

Team A was trailing Team B 21-0 but it was still early (mid second quarter). They were confronted with a 4th down and goal to go situation from the 5 yard line. Fans of Team A, concerned with the large deficit, were no doubt screaming for their team to go for the touchdown. This is when Madden made the point that resonated with me from a project management perspective:

“I would kick the field goal here. The longer you are at 0 points, the harder it becomes to move off of 0. Once you have points you have something to build on.”

There are those in the modern sports analytics field who might argue this but that is not the point of this post. Madden’s comment made me realize that the longer a project goes without delivering business value (known as the “Business Objectives” of the project), the harder it gets to deliver them. Some of the main reasons for this are:

  1. Business or IT Management and Stakeholders continue to propose grand ideas which significantly increase the scope without going through formal Scope Change Management.
  2. The Project lacks a Charter or Definition with sufficient detail, making “scope creep” hard to define.
  3. The Project is trying to deliver the Project Objectives all at once instead of a phased approach which can deliver some business value earlier.

I recommend having well defined Business and Project Objectives. Manage Scope jealously. Deliver at least some of the Business Value as early as possible and in phases.

The longer a project drags on without delivering something, the harder it gets to deliver anything. So”Kick the Field Goal”. Get off of “zero” as soon as possible. Your business and project (and your career) will be the better for it.

A reminder that my Kindle book “Project Management For The Real World” is available at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B089KRDDVN

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