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What could Project Teams Learn from the Olympics and PRINCE2? Part 1

We may be a little PRINCE2 obsessed here, but we’ve noticed something: some decisions by national team coaches and managers have shades (some paler than others!) of PRINCE2 Principles about them.

Continued Business Justification

There should always be a justifiable reason to start and continue a project and projects should bring benefits and align with corporate strategy. In their Olympics project, national teams do not enter events they have no chance of winning or that would not align to their overall medal-winning strategy.

Learn from Experience

"You can’t teach old dogs new tricks," or so the saying goes, but maybe it’s not the dog that’s the problem but the mindset. Successful teams are made up of people who are ready and willing to learn and share lessons. At the start of every project everyone should look back at previous ventures to see what worked and if the project is a “first”, the team should learn from the mistakes of others. As the project progresses everyone should keep learning and at its end they should be ready to pass on lessons to those who come after. When an American woman won the country’s first ever judo medal and when another was the first to win the all-round and team events in gymnastics, you can be sure that victory was in part based on experience from past losses.

Defined Roles and Responsibilities

One of the reasons that some teams did well in the Games was that the coach brought together people with the complementary skills and temperament even if it meant shuffling them around. For instance, on the Great Britain men’s coxless four team, two members had previously lost 14 times in pairs competitions, so the coach rethought and put them in as part of a team of four. The result was spectacular: the team of four won gold. Projects only succeed if the right people are involved and if they know what’s expected of them and of others.

Manage by Stages

Successful teams seemed to go through different stages in their pre-Olympic preparations. At each stage teams seemed to assess their situation and their plans to be able to retain the flexibility that would allow them to make effective decisions for the Olympics. Business projects are no different. Breaking projects into stages gives more control when deciding whether the undertaking is still viable and whether it should proceed.