The Arizona sun had set on the packed stadium. Camera crews lined the field to capture every moment and transmit it to the millions of viewers in homes all over the United States, including mine.
We watched, aware of the scant 26 seconds that remained on the clock as the Seahawks lined up a yard away from the touchdown that would secure their win. Would the Patriots then have time to score again?
Russell Wilson threw the ball. Gasps…. Malcolm Butler, a first year rookie, snatched the ball in a historic interception. Cheers… Confusion… Fights…. Referees… And the seconds ticked off the clock…. It was over. The legendary Tom Brady and his team had won.
It is tempting to focus only on such a dramatic moment. However, winning the Super Bowl is a project that plays out over time. A team must play together to achieve the goal of earning the right to play in and then win the most important game of the season. Challenges must be identified and overcome. Talents and skills must be nurtured. Logistics must be managed. The coach must cast and transmit vision. The Super Bowl wasn’t won in the moment. It was won across the season. And it was a brilliant example of a smart project well executed.
So, what were the 2015 Super Bowl project management lessons?
You Can’t Plan Out the Whole Game Before It Is Played.
Don’t try to develop a detailed plan for the entire project. Just as a football game is a series of plays that unfold based on what has happened before, projects are best understood as a series of sprints or time blocks, each of which informs the next one.
People Are Only An Asset When They Are Allowed to Be.
Know your people and theirs. Understand everyone’s role – motivations, likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. This helps when deciding how to allocate the work. Just as the Seahawks needed to understand the Patriots (and vice versa), your team needs to know who the people are who could sabotage your project.
There Is No Such Thing As A Winning Team of Quarterbacks.
Diversify your teams. Just as a football team needs players with different skills and abilities, so do your teams.
Practice Teamwork. Hone your skills.
Practice teamwork. Hone your skills. Practice teamwork. Hone your skills. Just as in the great game of football, the best teams have great skills PLUS a strong ability to work together that is the result of consistent, intentional practice.
When possible, locate your team in one area for easier collaboration. When it’s not possible, allow them to periodically meet together for the purpose of learning how to work together.
Protect and Promote Your High Performance Teams.
So often in the business world, we see organizations pull together a team to accomplish a particular business objective and then, disband that group of players after the objective is accomplished. SAD!! These high performance teams are one of your organization’s biggest intangible assets. Are you building your teams?
Focus on Your Risks.
It seems obvious at this point that Coach Pete Carroll didn’t fully consider the strong risk of an interception.
Take Advantage of Beneficial Risks.
Not all risks are negative. That’s exactly what Malcolm Butler did. While most of his team was likely thinking that the Seahawks would run the ball, Butler positioned himself to capitalize on the unexpected.
Be Graceful When You Lose.
When failures occur, and they will, take responsibility for your actions, apologize, forgive others and forgive yourself. Learn your lessons and then move on.
My boys will tell you that I know very little about sports. However, I do recognize a beautifully executed project when I see it. I offer my congratulations to the Patriots and my respect to the Seahawks. I look forward to experiencing the next well executed project… I mean, game.
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