Soccer through Project Management
On this time I will present a metaphor showing the similarities between soccer and Project Management.
Great soccer coaches and Project Managers, all have many things in common - from creating a formal work plan to evaluating all the risks that may affect the outcome of the project.
I am very passionate in applying and adopting the structured framework of the PMI © in all levels of a Soccer Club or Organism, to enable strategic changes that enhance the development and improvement of national soccer.
Let's start by reviewing - What is a project?
By definition, a project is a temporary effort to obtain a unique product, service or result; which means that in order for this effort to be considered a project, it must have a start date and an end date, in addition to also producing something unique. A project is a way to promote change, and thus a way to create value and benefits within an organization (or a soccer club). Every project includes several fundamental aspects: Scope (defined objectives), Time (duration of the project) Cost (budget) and Quality (customer satisfaction).
The project of Gerardo Martino, current Head Coach of the Mexican National Team, has as its main goal to classify Mexico in the 4th final (reach) in the next World Cup in Qatar 2022 (time); in this project, the income obtained from television rights, advertising contracts, sponsors, etc. would be considered part of the budget.
What does a Project Manager (PjMgr) do?
Project managers are professionals specialized in the Project Management area, they are assigned by the organization to lead the team responsible for achieving the project's objectives and the expectations of those interested. Just as a Project Manager is assigned by the organization, a professional Head Coach is assigned by a soccer club to lead the team and achieve the objectives previously established. The Head Coach is the link between the soccer team and the club managers.
What is Project Management?
It is the application of KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, TOOLS and TECHNIQUES to meet the objectives and expectations of a client or organization through the execution of a project in an effective and efficient manner. The Project Management Institute (PMI ©) is a recognized and prestigious international non-profit entity that establishes high standards and a theoretical framework of good practices in Project Management that has been shown to be effective. It is important to note that Project Management is not exclusive to a particular area, which means that it is applicable to any field in Government, Organization, Industry or Commerce.
Just like in Project Management, in soccer there are different standards and methodologies such as Tactical Periodization, Coerver Method, Integral Methodology, among many others.
Leading? Goals? Strategy? Results? So, what are we talking about… Soccer or Project Management?
Of course there is a strong correlation between the two subjects, which is why I will share with you the key points that, in my experience as a Project Manager and as a professional Head Coach, can help you achieve sporting success inside and outside of the field:
LEAD WITH ETHICS AND RESPONSIBILITY
Winning is important, but even more important is how to win. Regardless of the leadership style that distinguishes you as a coach, you must make ethics a central pillar of your leadership style; we are obliged to defend soccer by showcasing an exemplary personal conduct. There is no greatness without ethics.
CLZ Tip: Gain moral quality before soccer quality. Technical leadership, which only lasts for the duration of the match, is not the same as moral leadership, which weighs in forever.
LEARN THE CULTURE OF THE CLUB
We need to learn to see Culture as one of the most important assets of a Club, that's why when a Soccer Club has chosen you as team leader, it is crucial that you understand the set of beliefs, habits, values and traditions that distinguishes the Club. What is the tolerance level to their hobby? Is it more important for the Club to win or to play nice? What are the values that identify them? What is the acquisitive power of the Club? When studying all these aspects, you will be able to identify factors related to your philosophy and work methodology that could influence the success of the project in a positive or negative way.
CLZ Tip: Results matter but be cautios, because if you forget that style and culture comes first, you will be jeopardizing everything, including the results
IDENTIFY THE STAKEHOLDERS OF YOUR PROJECT
Stakeholders are all those individuals (or groups of people) who can be positively or negatively affected by the outcome of the project. It is a common mistake to think that the coach only has to manage the players; nevertheless, in addition to managing the players, the coach has to analyze early on all those actors who can influence the team's management. What are the Club President’s expectations? How involved is the President in decision-making? Is there a Sports Director? Who has the authority in financial decisions? What is the Technical Secretary’s level of participation? Do you have a Sports Psychologist? How many props are there in the club? How will your relationship be with the Sports Intelligence Area? Correctly identifying each of the stakeholders and their expectations will increase the chances of success in your sports project.
CLZ Tip: You should examine the types of relationships you will have with each important figure within the club, in order to maximize the positive influences and minimize the negative impacts.
DEFINE THE GOALS
Every project must have clearly defined objectives (scope), as they will be the guide to the necessary activities and methodologies to achieve those objectives, the achievement of such will mark the successful completion of the project. The work plan for a Head Coach who leads a national team will not be the same as the plan of a coach who manages a soccer club. If the main objective of a Club with a limited budget is to avoid relegation, you may prefer to focus the defense of your team; if the objective is for a National Team to qualify for the first time on the World Cup, perhaps your main priority should be in working on grassroots soccer with Junior Teams. All the efforts of the stakeholders of the project, as well as the planning and methodology, will depend on the project’s objective, that’s why it’s important to not leave room for any ambiguity or confusion in order to avoid unnecessary complexities.
CLZ Tip: Make sure that each person in the Club or Organization, going from the most important positions to the least important ones, understands the main objective of the project.
SELECTING YOUR TEAM
Which members do you need in your team in order to achieve the project’s objectives? The answer is not contingent upon soccer players. It is evident that you must analyze the squad of players to determine if there is any position or skill that is absent in order to assemble your tactical puzzle and achieve the expected results, but you also have to consider the technical skills and soft skills that you need in your team. Do you remember that you already analyzed the culture of the club? Imagine that it’s more important for the club to invest in training players than to win matches and that your technical assistant, with whom you have worked all your life, is a winner par excellence, competitive 'even when playing marbles'. Is it the best decision to include your Assistant Coach in the Soccer Staff? Another very common example is when the Head Coach has identified an awesomeplayer to be hired by the Club, but the player is constantly partying, an issue to which the Club is not really tolerant -. Would you be willing to support hiring this player?
Being able to form an effective work team is essential for the success of the project. Something that soccer teams and project teams have in common is: people. People can be counted, but they are not numbers.
CLZ Tip: It’s important to always surround yourself with people you trust, but it’s also essential for them to have the right skills and the passion to lead. Showing favoritism toward “friends” is just not the best decision!
DEVELOP A WORK PLAN
The work plan will define the way in which the project will be executed; as previously mentioned, its content will be based on the objectives and its complexity. How, when and where will the teams be doing the preseason? What training methodology are you going to implement? What is the Academy and youth athlete development plan? What will be the criteria to promote young players to first team? How do you prefer to receive performance analysis reports? You must consolidate a comprehensive work plan where there is no room for methodological improvisation; through this work plan, your team and all those interested will clearly understand how you are going to work together as a team and for the team.
CLZ Tip: 'Plan your work and then work on your plan.’ (Robert Baden-Powell)
TEAM ALIGNMENT. Assign Roles and Responsibilities.
A project increases its likelihood of success if all those involved in its execution clearly understand the tasks that each one must carry out in order to achieve the objectives, for this reason you must define and explain the roles and responsibilities of each interested member in the project. This includes players and other off-the-pitch stakeholders. How is the team behaving when in offensive stage? What strikers will be doing when they do not possess the ball? Who will be responsible to ensure training material is set and installed before the training? What is the level of authority of assistant coaches? Will the conditioning trainer have an active or passive participation during the training sessions? Who is going to do all the prework for a match?
Let's not forget that soccer is a team effort! The Head Coach working alongside with the team and the stakeholders will collectively define the roles and responsibilities of every one
CLZ Tip: ‘When we started winning championships, there was an agreement between the players. We all knew what roles to play. We knew our responsibilities and duties.’ (Michael Jordan)
DON’T GET CAUGHT OFFSIDE! Identify all potential risks on time.
It is for sure that things do not go as planned, so you must be prepared with mitigation plans for the risks that you have identified. What happens if your key player is injured? Are any of your players likely to get yellow cards? In how many tournaments will the club be participating? How is the interaction of players inside the locker room? Most of the threats that could impact the execution of a project can be identified in a timely manner; although some of these risks can be prevented, in some cases we can only accept the risk and anticipate a response plan for when that scenario arises.
CLZ Tip: With the current COVID situation we must learn to consider environmental factors, like flight delays or hotel room capacity as well as any problems with food/restaurant reservations.
IS THE SEASON GOING AS EXPECTED? Monitor and control the work plan.
In every project there must be a follow-up process to revise and report the general progress and ensure that the objectives defined in the plan are met. Is the team in the desired ranking? Have we reached the goal of promoted players? Is the implemented methodology giving the expected results? Is the team playing as planned? Monitoring the progress of all components of the work plan is important to ensure that objectives are achieved within the budget and on time. It is normal that adjustments have to be made, but always make them aligned to the initially established objectives.
CLZ Tip: Monitor processes and not the people.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH COMMUNICATION. We will not achieve anything without Effective Communication.
Lack of communication leaves too much room for imagination ... and listen! imagination is a very wide open field. Keeping proactive communication with project stakeholders will always be important in order to deliver a successful project. How often will you have communication with your Sports Sponsor? What communication channel will be used –through a call or through WhatsApp-? Are you going to make a pre-game presentation? Is it necessary to hold daily work meetings with your coaching staff? How could you effectively use the 15 minutes at half time? Remember that communication is not only about speaking; it’s also a visual process or even body language. Always consider your audience! Addressing college/professional players is not the same as targeting grassroots players.
Consejo CLZ: Communication needs to be increased in times of crisis.
DO NOT TRIP TWICE OVER THE SAME ROCK! Document the lessons learned.
Lessons learned are used to improve project performance and to avoid repeating mistakes. What was the key to obtain the last championship? What is the root cause of loosing 3 in a row games? How did you get the team's top scorer to break a no scoring series of games? A common mistake is to believe that managing knowledge only implies obtaining lessons learned at the end of a project, but this should be an ongoing task since, as we make mistakes and learn, we also improve our performance.
CLZ Tip: El camino está hecho de triunfos y derrotas, de alegrías y tristezas, de críticas elogiosas y devastadoras. Según sepamos enfocarlo, puede ser un sinvivir o un continuo aprendizaje del que podamos salir enriquecidos. (Jorge Valdano)
Soccer Clubs will achieve their goals if the Head Coach is a great leader; projects are successful when Project Managers are great leaders. Project Management, like Soccer, is becoming increasingly complex, so the project leader -Project Manager or Soccer Coach- must have the ability to guide, motivate and lead a team, making sure to implement the correct methodology and completing it with appropriate skills, tools and techniques.
The Project Management has the goal of achieving objectives, just as in soccer the objective is achieved after scoring a goal.
We could learn a lot from soccer if we only give it the right approach.
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By: Carlos Lozano
Visit my page! www.dtclz.com