Published here August 2003. 

Introduction | The Success Principle | The Commitment Principle 
The Tetrad-Tradeoff Principle | The Strategy Principle | The Management Principle
The Single-Point Responsibility Principle | The Cultural Environment Principle | Conclusion

The Strategy Principle

"Plan first then do " is a long-standing management axiom. The saying works in both the project and hockey worlds. The project life span contains a series of planning and doing initiatives. Within each of the Initiating, Planning, Executing, Closing and Controlling processes are sub-processes for planning and carrying out the work of the project. Plans are made in each of the nine project management knowledge areas identified in the PMBOK GuideĀ. Planning is arguably the most important of the project life span phases.

Without planning we cannot begin to guess how long or how much effort is required to complete the project within the scope and quality constraints. Without a plan that the project manager and the development team agree to, the team lacks the direction required to complete its work. Many have heard the saying "If you don't know where you're going how will you know when you get there?" A plan is required to successfully complete every project, and without a plan, achieving success in any project cannot be realistically committed to at the beginning of that project.

The hockey team life span is much like a project life span in that teams produce plans prior to the beginning of the season and continue planning throughout the season. Between seasons they determine what success is, then plan to achieve that success. They establish, among other organizational needs: team makeup, budget, schedule, procurement plans, quality measurements and contingency plans.

During the season they put together a game plan for each coming game. That plan could include adding and removing key players from the lineup to meet specific requirements and it could include having certain players on the bench in case a key player gets injured. It would most certainly include a different strategy or tactical game plan to beat the opposition in each particular game. Professional hockey teams replicate the lessons learned practice by reviewing video tapes from both their and their coming opposition's previous games and use what they've learned from those games to better their chance of victory.

Similarly, better project organizations turn knowledge gained from individual projects into strategies and tactics to increase their chances of success on future projects.

The difference between hockey teams and project teams in this sense is in practice time. Generally speaking, before each game, hockey teams practice their game plan. Hockey teams usually have one or more days to practice. The more they practice the better they become and the better chance to achieve their goals. Project teams don't have the luxury of practice. They come together for each individual project. Moreover, they often don't know each other very well, if at all, and are often asked to meet or exceed some very significant expectations.

This is like recruiting a hockey team one day and asking them to play and win against a well-established organization the next day. Certainly there are examples throughout history where newly formed teams have met with success in situations like these. Hockey's Team Canada, consisting of an overconfident yet out-of-shape all star team coming off its summer break, beat the reigning Olympic Gold Medalist Soviet Union National Team in the Summit Series of 1972.[8] That same Soviet team had won nine of the last ten world championships and went on to win three more from 1973-1975.

But occasions like this are few and far between. The odds of it happening may account for the success rate of IT projects in the past - very poor.

The Tetrad-Tradeoff Principle   The Tetrad-Tradeoff Principle

8. McFarlane, Brian. Team Canada 1972: where are they now?, Etobicoke: Winding Stair Press, 2001
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