Your Two-Minute PM Offense
Pay attention to the important coaches in your own life
Super Bowl Sunday is a recent memory of what was maybe a good game, maybe not. Maybe you cared, and maybe you didn't. But that big game is a wrap-up for the season. Which teams made it, which didn't, and why? Talk will go on about the other big games — the ones that should have been won or, at least, could have been won. And, if they had been won, the teams that played in the championship might have been different.
"But Coach," you ask, "What's the lesson in a football game for a PM?" It has to do with intensity and timing: Always know how much time is left on the clock.
Time on the clock? Absolutely. Look, I know that not every reader is a huge football fan, but most of you have watched a game or two. So, if you're careful, you'll see lessons for life and business played out over the course of almost every game. For example, think about the importance of the clock, and how it affects the game and your own company and projects.
When a team begins the game, there is an actual game plan. This is the coach's strategy for how he thinks the game can be won. The game plan has a certain pace to it. Thru the first three quarters, it's pretty measured. The game goes on, the clock ticks down, and the decision of who wins and who loses gets closer.
If you're on the losing end, the clock becomes your enemy. You don't want the game to be over until you are ahead! So you have to maximize your opportunities, and determine how to get in more plays for your team. Call time outs when you need to. Stop the clock. Start the clock. Win the game.
Face it: As a PM, you have a project to "win," and your record has to be a winning one. Did you really think it was that different from football? Of course it's not. Contract working days, phase durations, completion dates, happy customers versus liquidated damages; yeah, you've got clocks.
The saying, "I've got too much month left after the end of the money" is not just what Joe Lunchbucket worries about. PMs have it in spades, because each phase of our work and each line item has its own budget and time constraints. And Day 1 of each phase is almost always much less intense than that final day of the phase, when you've got new trades coming in tomorrow or, worse yet, a grand opening crowd.
Hopefully you believe the premise that the clock is important, even in construction. Did you know you can do some things to actually manage the clock, help your bottom line and improve your win-loss record?
Good coaches and QBs do know and understand the clock. Their mindsets change when there is little time left in the game. In fact, they often go into the "two-minute offense" mode when there is little time left, they are behind, and they need to score before time runs out. The pace quickens, and they go to a "no-huddle" offense. Instead of huddling before each play, they just go up to the line of scrimmage, the QB calls a play, and the team, hopefully, executes it just like the coach drew it up. Sometimes, it messes up the opposing defense, and they are called for a penalty. But the essence is this: no wasted time; no wasted motion; no wasted opportunities. Win the game.
The good PM knows how he's doing on his budget and on each of his durations. He knows he can't afford to do any extra work, because no extra work has been factored into the budget and into the construction schedule. He sees this for what it is: a penalty to his contract. He points it out to the CM who is "refereeing" the project, and he expects a penalty of time and money to be called. More time on the clock; more time to win.
Good teams and good companies find a way to win, even when things don't look so good. The only way to ensure you will lose a game before it's over is to quit. If you don't quit, you always have a chance. Even if you're dealing with the biggest GC or CM around, one who seemingly chews up small subs just for fun, stick to your game plan. Only perform the work you're contracted for, and to do so at a profit. That's the objective.
Others have faced far more dire consequences and overcome them, just as you will overcome the inevitable downturn in your local economy, along with difficult clients and impossible schedules.
But let me leave you now with a word of encouragement. I'd like you to know and remember the words of a great "coach" and statesman said on Oct. 29, 1941. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with his country literally on fire, already written off, and considered lost to the Nazis by many others, said, "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
Team, think about something: "Coach" Churchill was certainly up against the clock. Things looked so bleak for him and his country, but he forced that game into "overtime." And that "sudden death" victory changed the course of the world.
As PMs, we're just faced with changing the course of our projects, not the world. So, in this New Year, even when some are crying "Gloom and doom," it is our time to shine. What some will see as bleakness, we will see as opportunity. We will see it as a time to lead, because we will never give in.
About the Author
Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at FullContactTeam@gmail.com.
Copyright 2008 Gary Micheloni