As a keen amateur athlete and chair of my local
running club, I got to thinking about the similarities
between running a marathon and managing a project.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized they
are similar; a thought process triggered by a throw
away comment from my line manager, "a project is a
marathon not a sprint", so what do they have in
Plan Your Course
Imagine a Marathon where the course has not been
worked out or accurately measured. The competitors
start without knowing the route or where they will
finish. In the end it's chaos with runners wandering
around aimlessly, complaining it was impossible to
finish the marathon successfully. Now imagine a
project where the outcome is unclear and there is no
plan. Sound similar? Make sure you have agreed a
clear outcome and a detailed plan for your project.
When The Going Gets
Tough - Push Through
A marathon is a significant challenge and requires a
lot of dedication and fortitude. Unless you are very
lucky (or talented) you are going to encounter
difficulties along the way. You'll hit the 'wall'. You
need to break through it and keep going. Similarly,
projects are significant undertakings and nobody
pretends they're easy. You will encounter
difficulties, but keep going.
Drive for the Finish
The last few miles of a marathon take the most effort
and are quite uncomfortable. You may want to slow
down or stop, but keep going - one final push will
see you safely across the finishing line. The last part
of a project is equally difficult. Bringing everything
to a successful conclusion takes effort and
application. Don't be tempted to slow down or stop,
push on to the finish.
Celebrate Your Success
Crossing the finishing line of a marathon is a wonderful
feeling and the sense of achievement is great! It's the reason
people come back time and again to run the iconic distance.
You know it's going to hurt, but it's worth it to finish, with
the sense of achievement that brings. You deserve to
celebrate your success. Equally, you should celebrate your
success at the end of projects. It's been a long hard road,
with difficulties along the way, but you've made it. You
and your team deserve time to reflect and enjoy your
achievement for a short while.
When given a project to manage:
Plan your course carefully;
Keep going when difficulties arise;
Drive to the finish;
Celebrate your success.
My line manager once told me that I'm a good project
manager because I run, and running is about getting
from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as
possible. Perhaps she had a point.