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
Type the numbers for two hundred thirty-one.
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Top 10 Qualities of an Excellent Manager

The word excellent on a virtual interface with a businessman standing behind it

What are the most important qualities of an excellent manager that allows them to tap into talents and resources in order to support and bring out the best in others.

The Mythical 50% Resource

Red blocks with the percent sign on a white background

Most managers of software development projects have had an encounter with a resource who is committed to their project some percentage of the time.

PMP Exam Day Tips

PMI logo

Tips for passing the PMP Exam that should help calm your nerves and ensure success.

10 Steps to Setting SMART Objectives

Measuring tape showing number 10

Setting SMART objectives to guide your team is important for a leader to get right. Badly formulated objectives will steer a team in the wrong direction.

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

Pani Tararo commented on…
SMART Goals
- Sat 22 April 12:58am

Cheryl commented on…
The Role of the Project Manager
- Thu 20 April 2:36pm

Dr. Nishikant Bohra commented on…
Who is the Project Manager?
- Thu 20 April 8:00am

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Project management methods - 2 days left to have your say https://t.co/e2FveskJHB #projectsmart #pmot about 11 hours ago

General Project Management • Using Milestones to Make Projects More Manageable https://t.co/NLJlBoL8x3 #projectsmart #pmot about 1 day ago

General Project Management • 60 Second PM: 5 Tips for Improving as a Project Manager https://t.co/Ek7OiZU47P #projectsmart #pmot about 1 day ago