HOWZAT – Adapt or Fail

In this summer of so much sport I am finding it hard not to see a constant stream of analogies with the world of project management and the strongest to-date comes from the England men’s team competing in the ICC World Cup.

The England team arrived at the start of the competition with many positive endorsements ringing in their ears; their preparation and perceived mastery of their craft led to people shouting “world beaters”, “best prepared”, “undoubted talent” and “big hitters” amongst other positive assessments of their many talents.

Like an experienced project management practitioner, they have recognised skills, a record of delivery and rightly so, the expectation that they could do it all again!

So, what could possibly go wrong?

In a nutshell, England’s much praised big hitting approach has faltered as they have been exposed to teams and pitches that do not support such an expansive approach. Looking like one trick ponies, the team has failed to assess the environment in which they are delivering and thus have failed to make the necessary tweaks to adapt to what is in front of them. Repeating blindly what has worked before, the team has grabbed failure where they expected glory.

In the project management domain we sometimes see this same trait in practitioners who have a one dimensional big hitter approach. Their inability to sense the nuances of the environment and the culture of the people they are working with leads them to a situation where they fail to adapt their approach in any way, shape or form. Success is rarely the result.

What does good looks like?

As Mike Atherton wrote in the times “in my experience matches are won by good players playing smart, intelligent cricket and adapting to the conditions and situations put before them”

For the project world, this statement probably needs just a few tweaks to hold true; “in my experience projects are delivered by good practitioners who bring smart, intelligent methods and adapt to the conditions and situations put before them”.

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