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


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
Enter the third letter of the word house.
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

The Risky Business of Project Management

Three red dice reading: Manage your risk

It is important at the beginning of any project to go through the risk identification process. Not all project risks are obvious, so here's how.

Work Breakdown Structure Made Easy

Work Breakdown Structure

The Work Breakdown Structure is a deliverable-oriented, hierarchical decomposition of the work to be completed by a project team.

Break Your PMP Studies Into Small Pieces

A mature student concentrating on her studies

Taking the PMP exam is one of the biggest steps you'll take in your career as a Project Manager. With careful planning you can pass with a minimum of stress.

Top 10 Steps to Successful Goals

Businessman sprinter winning a track race

Help avoid the great 'Rinse and Repeat Trap' by following these 10 steps to setting successful goals. You may have to work for it, however!

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

Michelle Lim commented on…
PMP Exam Day Tips
- Thu 15 August 11:53pm

Michelle Lim commented on…
PMP Exam Day Tips
- Thu 15 August 11:51pm

Stanford Komba commented on…
Project Planning a Step by Step Guide
- Mon 12 August 2:07am

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Project Plan https://t.co/4HsDgia1BH about 7 days ago

RT @NestorAlemanPM: @ProjectSmart Reading the question posted in the link attached, where a fresh engineering graduated would like to work… about 14 days ago

General Project Management • Re: Future Project Manager Needs Advice https://t.co/2FK1KgbhYk about 15 days ago