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Hockey Players and Project Managers: Just Trying to Win

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Boy_with_Hockey_StickMy son’s hockey team won their last tournament of the summer season this past weekend.  As the athletes came into the lobby from the locker room, everyone cheered, recognizing each individual contribution.  Another mom made a comment out loud that many of us hockey parents think just about every time we see them come out of the locker room: “They’re so little!”

It’s truly amazing to see 9-year-olds play hockey at the level that this team plays.  They skate on the ice as though they’re dancing on pavement.  They handle a stick with astounding skill.  They move the puck up and down the ice with agility that sometimes takes my breath away.

It’s not hard to get caught up in this level of play and start cheering, shouting…OK screaming:  “Hustle!”  “Pass!”  “Move your feet!”  They are so good and they make it look so easy.  Fans sitting on the bench start to wonder, “What’s your problem? Shoot the puck!”

Then after the game they come out of the locker room and you see them as…little boys.  With height not augmented by skates, bodies not donned in pads and equipment, faces not covered by helmets and masks, they’re just the little kids who like Saturday morning cartoons and still sleep with a favorite blanket.

If it doesn’t make you feel a bit silly for all the screaming you did, it sure does make you appreciate how good they really are.

Project managers don’t wear pads and helmets while managing projects and we don’t get a locker room from which to exit looking like a humbler version of ourselves to invoke appreciation for what we do.

We do, however, get senior level folks to sponsor our projects and advocate for what we’re trying to accomplish.  We get access to resources, support to schedule and run meetings, and we may get training to help us do our jobs better.  We get teams of people and the wealth of organizational knowledge about what’s worked and what hasn’t on past projects.  So there may be stakeholders on the sidelines wondering, “What’s your problem? Deliver on time!”

Well, it’s tough out there on the project ice. Even when we get the sponsorship, resources, and skills we need to do our job, stakeholders are conflicted, organizations are in flux, and resources change.  While it may not look that hard from the bench, some days it’s amazing that we get consensus or momentum on anything.

High expectations for project managers are a good thing.  But sometimes after a hard day, it would be nice to have a locker room where we could take off all the emotional and intellectual equipment we wear to get our job done and emerge for others to get a little different perspective for who we are:  someone just trying to get the project done for the benefit of the organization and everyone in it.

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