Project management and football

At first glance, football and project management may seem like two different worlds, but a closer look reveals fascinating parallels. While football captivates millions of fans, project management in business is about the efficient implementation of ideas and goals.
Both disciplines require a clear strategy and teamwork to be successful. Just as football players work together to score goals and win matches, in project management a team works together to achieve milestones and complete projects successfully. In addition, time management and the ability to adapt to unforeseen challenges play a crucial role in both football and project management in order to respond appropriately to change. Read this article to find out what project managers can learn from the world of football.
A football match.


A strong goal

In football, the goal is the championship. The thought of winning the title spurs everyone on and helps them get through difficult times. Day after day, the team works towards this goal, overcoming many small hurdles along the way. Games have to be won, goals have to be scored, qualifications have to be achieved. It almost sounds like a project, with milestones to be reached, subtasks to be worked through and completed as successfully as possible. What you can learn from football is the high level of motivation that players often achieve. Of course, it will be difficult to praise a project's success in the same way as a world championship title, and the winning bonuses in your project will probably be a little lower than at FC Bayern Munich, but you can still give your team a goal that is worth working towards. This is where you come in. What could motivate your team to go above and beyond? 
To beat last year's result, to be better than another team, or maybe a prize or bonus?


Where a football team needs a coach, a project team needs a "group leader". The coach does not play. His job is to push the players to do their best and to have their back so that they can perform and concentrate on the game. Project management is similar. You can't stand on the sidelines and have to intervene from time to time. But the goals are scored by others. Like a good coach, you need to enable your team to do their best. Awaken the potential of your team members. Make the necessary decisions, even if you are not always celebrated for them. It is better to make decisions than to put them off. If necessary, simply schedule an extra round of training to make better use of the team's skills. At the same time, strong leadership does not mean that you make all the decisions. Quite the opposite. Just as a coach relies on the skills of his strikers, you need to rely on the skills of your experts, especially since project management brings together so many different skills.


Just like in football, your project team needs continuous and focused training. Months before a tournament, the teams meet to train together. Technique, stamina, strength and simply playing together. It all takes practice, and it doesn't work right away. A well-rehearsed team is better than the best collection of individual fighters. However, in a company, a team is often expected to perform at its best from day one. Do you allow your team to train once in a while? Do you allow practice? And even the occasional mistake to learn from? You should model an open culture of failure, give the team time to do their best, and provide training and team-building activities.


Every team needs success to cope with defeat. So celebrate your successes as a team. Celebrate every goal that is achieved in a way that makes everyone in the team understand that there is reason to rejoice, celebrate and pat each other on the back. Recognition is the informal currency of the job market and it is important. Victories are motivating, in football as in project management, but only if they are perceived as such. A celebration or recognition can make this clear, because in project management it is not as clear as in football who has just won what.


Not only victories but also defeats bring people together. A missed opportunity, a mistake, a failure. These things happen. Difficult phases in the project have to be overcome, together. Does your best player drop out for a while, or do you fail to get an important test track or approval? Don't hang your head. As a coach, try to use the motto: Now we give more. Don't look for someone to blame, focus on the future!


No football team can succeed without its fans. This starts in the eighth division. The fans are a crucial factor in the success of a team, and that goes right up to the championship. Where are your fans? Maybe your customers, who appreciate your achievements and celebrate with you? Or maybe the management, who are very satisfied with your performance? These are the true fans who motivate and positively influence the project team.


Comparing project management to football is a playful way of explaining the many different aspects of project management. Especially when it comes to the theoretical teaching of project management, motivation and attention in a training session can wane after a while. Simple examples that stimulate thought and discussion in a different way will liven up the workshop. So do not be afraid to use such images and explain project management in a different way.

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Author: IAPM internal
Keywords: Project management

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