Project Portfolio Management – Sprint or Marathon?

Project Portfolio Management is not a sprint

Are you like me? After work, I can’t wait to just get outside. Some fresh air. A little movement. A quick run around the park helps me clear my head. Recently, when I went out for my slow, comfortable run, I saw quite a few serious runners. Some were trying to beat their best sprint times, and some were training for their next marathon. Watching those runners somehow got me thinking about work again. I wondered if you could compare running to project portfolio management (PPM). And if you did compare the two, is PPM more like a sprint or a marathon?

Sprint vs. Marathon

In a sprint, the runners run between 50 and 400 meters as quickly as possible. Some sprints also include hurdles. The idea of hurdles can be easily applied to PPM, but it is not something that happens quickly. Speed is not the goal of project portfolio management. You won’t achieve the results you want if you’re in a hurry!

A marathon is a bit more strenuous with a distance of 26.2 miles. Time is important, but the most important factor when running a marathon is to stay on course to achieve the goal. Marathon runners master the art of thinking ahead in order to use their energy reserves sensibly.

So, it makes sense to say that PPM is more like a marathon. Now, let’s compare the two in more detail.

The PPM Marathon and Its Phases

Preparation and Planning

Marathon runners begin training months before their race. To do the job well, a PMO director must also have a lot of training and experience in project portfolio management. Project teams must also be properly trained, and this is an on-going process.

Now imagine a marathon without a set course or one that hasn’t been accurately measured. The runners would run around aimlessly and scatter in all directions. If they don’t know where the finish line is, they can’t track their progress. The whole marathon would be a complete mess.

In PPM, you have to know your strategic objectives in order to select and prioritize the right projects. All participants – especially the project teams and their leaders – should know the roadmap and be aware of the expected results. Communication, a detailed plan and concrete milestones are essential.

During the Race

Runners like to monitor their time and distance to track their progress. This is similar in PPM where key performance indicators (KPIs) are used.

It’s also important that marathon runners keep a steady pace. Endurance and perseverance are key factors. They depend not only on one’s physical condition, but also on willpower. Quitting is not an option.

In project portfolio management, things never go exactly as planned, and that can make your job difficult. But you can’t just give up on a project because there are a few complications.

Nearing the Finish Line

Project Portfolio Management at the finish line

Experts advise increasing your speed in the last stage of a marathon, even if it requires pushing yourself and your body is screaming to do the opposite. However, with the finish line so close, adrenaline usually kicks in and maximizes your motivation.

Often, projects are also very stressful right before completion. It is at that point that the PMO must offer any support necessary to ensure that everything is completed by the deadline, without sacrificing quality.

After the Race

A marathon is different than most races because most marathon runners aren’t focused on being the first to cross the finish line. All runners who make it to the finish line within the time limit are winners. This feeling of success is indescribable. Even so, serious runners will critically analyze their performance in a marathon. They look for areas they can improve in the next run.
The same principle applies to PPM. Don’t rush. Instead, focus on successfully completing the projects by their deadlines. Of course you should celebrate your successes but every good PMO also looks for improvements for next time. (Source: Haughey, Projectsmart)

Now Your Running Career Can Begin!

Runners can master a marathon if they’ve trained and prepared properly. Don’t be scared of the PPM marathon. If you are organized, know the plan, know the goal, and prepare for complications, the 26.2 miles will be a breeze.

By | 2017-08-08T07:11:35+00:00 August 3rd, 2017|Categories: Project Portfolio Management|Tags: Marathon, PMO, Project Management Office, Sprint|

About the Author: Karoline Holicky

Karoline Holicky brings not only her southern charm and Cajun cooking (Louisiana-born and Texas-raised!), but as the Marketing Manager at Meisterplan, she also brings 15 years of professional experience in many industries including financial services, engineering, oil & gas and the software industry. As an expert in Project Portfolio and Resource Management, Karoline watches for best practices and trends to help companies from North America improve their PPM.

Send this to a friend