Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar icon
Adobe PDF icon

Project Management: A Marathon Not a Sprint

~ By Duncan Haughey

Runners taking part in a marathon

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 realised 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 common?

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 on 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 the wall 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 fantastic 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.

In Summary

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.


Duncan is the veteran of ten marathons (including six London Marathons) with a personal best time of 3:01:08


Advertisement


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
What is the sum of 2 + 2 + 4?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Avoiding Project Management Pitfalls

Foot about to tread on a banana skin

Common pitfalls that projects experience and some tips to help make a project more successful and avoid the potential for chaos.

Critical Path Mapping

Critical path method words on digital screen with world map

The activity network diagram is a method of displaying the timelines of all the various sub-tasks that are involved in any project. So how do you create one?

Building Your Project Team

Friendly successful project team of young executives

How should you set about choosing people for your project and forming them into a well functioning project team?

Learning from Project Failures

Success and failure directional signs

Some of the most important lessons we learn come from failures. Kenneth Darter explains a simple four step process to make sure the same failures aren't repeated.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Ashwini Pendharkar commented on…
10 Golden Rules of Project Risk Management
- Tue 20 June 1:32pm

Tery commented on…
A Brief History of SMART Goals
- Mon 19 June 10:10pm

Tammy Marin commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Thu 15 June 10:37pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Re: Web based open source calendar recommendaton required https://t.co/D20GkodlzD #projectsmart #pmot about 12 hours ago

General Project Management • What degree should I choose to further my career? https://t.co/qGfgK50xLI #projectsmart #pmot about 12 hours ago

General Project Management • Re: Manage Your Projects in Just 60 Minutes a Day https://t.co/Bwo6NtZF3z #projectsmart #pmot about 3 days ago