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April 2007

Full Contact Project Management
project management

Starters Don't Cut Practice

Let's say that you wanted to make the team. As a matter of fact, you always wanted to make the team — even dreamed about it every night. I'm not sure what your plan of action was, but let me tell you what I did.

As a kid, I watched the game on TV and in person. I played the game with my friends: at school, after school — it didn't matter. I always wanted to play at a higher level, for the school team and beyond.

When I tried out for the school team, I found out something, though. Lots of guys wanted to play. Lots of guys had dreams. Lots of guys signed up. It was a big deal: real coaches and real uniforms, with real refs and real people watching the games. I wanted to be a part of all that. How about you? Remember trying out for any school teams? I mean any school team: athletics, band, cheer, academics, music, drama — you name it.

In my case, two teams come to mind: football, as a 16-year-old high school senior, and the college debate team, as a 50-year-old "senior" on a team with 18- to 24-year olds (and that's a separate story altogether!) Both teams had coaches and players, and the coaches told the players what was expected of them.

Here's what mine told me: We had practice every day until the season began, then four practices a week, plus game day. We all understood one thing: if you didn't make it to practice, you had better be dead or seriously injured, because cutting practice was just not tolerated! As a matter of fact, the consequences of missing a practice were serious, because you let down your entire team; plays couldn't be run with the right mix of players in them, and other guys had to cover for you. And the fact that you missed practice was never overlooked by the coaches, either!

During practice, we spent most of our time doing conditioning drills, both physical and mental. We were expected to come to practice prepared, and ready to leave it all on the field, every day. Nothing less was tolerated — not that we would we have wanted it any other way.

"But Coach, what does all of this have to do with project management?" I thought you'd never ask!

Team, it has everything to do with your work as a PM and a leader on your projects. Think about this for a second. When you were a part of a competitive team back in school, and were about to step onto the "field" to do your part, how prepared were you? I'm not saying that you weren't nervous; sure, it's a little scary. But you went there with the knowledge that your coaches had prepared you, that you were as good as you could possibly be, and you knew that your teammates could count on you, and you could count on them.

Is it any different today? Don't you count on your crew members to do their part, to move through the job as quickly as possible, with the least number of mistakes, and no "dropped balls?" And don't they know that you've got their backs, and you'll do everything humanly possible to make sure that they have a safe work environment, with good tools, equipment and supervision? I hope I hear some of you saying "yes" out there, because that's why you have your job. Regardless of the company size and your title, much is expected and required of you.

The companies I've worked for in the past have sent me to seminars on project management, claims, scheduling, safety — you name it. It's education. It's practice. It's expected. It's required. It's needed. And you need it!

These companies also have expected that I would continue to practice every day, honing my skills for "game day." But these days, my practice might consist of looking at the specs of every one of our jobs, talking to all of our forepersons about what they are doing, making sure that they are not doing any work not called for in our contracts. And if a foreperson tells me that something doesn't seem right, I jump into action, usually by firing off a "winning RFI" to our client and letting him or her know that we might have a potential problem. I get into the game, and I do my best with every play. Sometimes we win and sometimes we don't, but we don't just sit on the bench and ignore the game.

I learned a long time ago — and you probably did, too — that you can't cut practice if you want to get into the game. And I don't just want in; I want in as a starter. I expect to win. That's the attitude I caught from my coaches, and I suspect that you did, too.

So, now that you're out in the real world, aspire to be a Full Contact PM. Get as much coaching as you can. Go to every relevant seminar that you can possibly attend. Buy the best books — I can suggest a great one on how to get paid! And take every applicable course; it's all tax-deductible, as well as necessary.

And, most importantly, never cut "practice" — your best competitors don't. Your company pays you to practice. Your own team counts on you every day. And you know what this Coach expects of you.

Get yourself off the bench. Be a player. Better yet, be a starter!


Coach Gary's Playbook:

Need to find out what to practice? Go to www.fullcontactpm.com, click on to the archives, and see the assistance available to you for free. You get Coach Gary's book there, too.






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