Touchdown! What Do the SuperBowl and Project Management Have in Common? (Featured article by Michelle LaBrosse)

Are you ready for some football? It’s that time of year again when millions of Americans gather ‘round their flat screen TVs to worship at the altar of the football gods, those heavily padded giants that we cheer for as we load up on carbs of all sorts, and maybe even rate the SuperBowl ads.

SuperBowl Sunday is not just an American tradition that prompts people to paint their faces and yell at the top of their lungs, it is an industry with goals, obstacles and a keen focus on ROI. Sound familiar?

The SuperBowl has a lot more in common with Project Management than you might think. Let’s take a look:

The Team
First, you have the teams. A myriad of personalities from different schools and backgrounds that may have different individual agendas, but they have to come together and focus on one big goal: getting to the SuperBowl.

At work, we also have to get our teams to work toward our shared goal and get on the same page with our project agreement. Our SuperBowl is our stretch goal – the ultimate goal, the big ring that we’re reaching for in our company or in our lives.

The Play
When a team executes a play beautifully, it can cast a spell on an entire crowd. But, that perfect moment of magic has been planned all year. The team is working from a shared master plan.

Behind great success at work and at py, there is always a plan, and it can’t be a secret plan. It’s a project agreement that everyone is on board with and understands the vision and the tactics to get there.

In football, the coaches and teams are constantly being evaluated to see how much money they are bringing to the bottom-line. Their contracts are regularly scrutinized against the statistics of each game. When they get to the SuperBowl, all eyes are on them – from the fans to the owners, the question of value and return on investment is always looming.

In our organizations and in our lives, we are also looking at ROI. What is our value to our team? When you load in your salary and benefits, what are you contributing to the bottom-line? Project Management can help you to answer that question and show your value to the organization.

In football, a team loses yardage for a penalty. In our lives, we lose yardage when we haven’t planned properly or realigned our goals based on change. Project Management teaches us to create standards that build a cohesive culture. When we define our standards of quality and excellence, we help prevent the penalties because we’re all moving in sync toward a common set of goals.

When there’s a fumble on the field, there’s often a breakdown in communication. Just like real-life. We fumble when we haven’t taken the time to schedule regular communication with our team.

On the football field, a drive is the series of plays that takes a team down the field, closer to a touchdown. In the office, a drive happens when we’re all following the same simple, proven approach to managing projects.

The moment of success! The ball crosses that line and the crowd goes crazy. After all of that work, the plays, and blood, sweat and tears, there is a touchdown. In Project Management, this is the moment when we reach our goal. When we’re rushed, we often don’t take the time to celebrate our goal or to analyze and capture best practices. Here, we can learn a lot from our football brethren. They pull out the champagne immediately and let the party begin, but they also spend a lot of time analyzing their win – what they did right and wrong, and what they can learn from it for next season.

The Roar of the Crowd
There’s a reason that football is a marketing bonanza. It’s fueled with emotion and glory, the triumph of victory and the agony of defeat. It has all the elements of human tragedy and comedy in one grand event, but why do we know that? Because that’s what the NFL and the marketers have been telling us since the first football game.

So, when your project is complete, who are you telling? How are you marketing your victory? While the roar of the crowd may not be at SuperBowl level, you’ll be surprised how the volume increases when you market your success, achievements and ROI to your fans.

About the Know How Network
The Know How Network is a monthly column written by Michelle LaBrosse, the founder and Chief Cheetah of Cheetah Learning. Distributed to hundreds of newsletters and media outlets around the world, the Know How Network brings the promise, purpose and passion of Project Management to people everywhere.

About the Author
Michelle LaBrosse, PMP, is the founder of Cheetah Learning, and author of Cheetah Negotiation and Cheetah Project Management.  The Project Management Institute,, recently selected Michelle as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the World, and only one of two women selected from the training and education industry.  She was featured in the October 2006 issue of PM Network Magazine, and also graduated from the Harvard Business School’s Owner President Managers (OPM) program in March 2006.

She created the origins of the Cheetah Project Management methodology as an Air Force Officer in the mid 80’s.  In 1995, she prototyped the concept of accelerating learning using “virtual classrooms,” to accelerate the way people learned and applied core business skills.   As a corporate research scientist in systems engineering and adult learning for a large multinational corporation, she later created and tested a one-day approach to teaching Project Management.   This approach would later evolve to become Cheetah Project Management, a fast and effective way of launching projects.

Today, she is the leader of the course development team at Cheetah and sets the strategic direction for the company. Using the Cheetah Project Management techniques, LaBrosse has grown the company from three employees in 2000 to more than 100 in 2006. Cheetah is now the global leader in Project Manager Professional Development.

Her articles have appeared in publications such as: European CEO Magazine, Plant Engineering Magazine, Industrial Engineer Magazine, Control Engineering Magazine, Journal of the American Association for Medical Transcription JAAMT, NSSEA Essentials Magazine, ASTN Network Magazine, Radio Sales Today, Sprinkler Quarterly & Technology Magazine, The Federal Credit Union Magazine Online, Business Quarterly Online American Society of Landscape Architects, ACRP Wire Association of Clinical Research Professionals, American Council of Engineering Companies Association and more.

With a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, LaBrosse has done extensive postgraduate work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Educational Studies and with the University of Washington Industrial Engineering Program in accelerating adult learning with respect to meeting core business objectives.

She lives in Nevada with her family and likes to rejuvenate in Alaska where you’ll often find her kayaking, golfing or hiking.

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