Managing My Running Like A Project: A Project Management Analogy
By Ed Hammerbeck
One of the goals I set for myself in 2008 is the same one from 2007 that I failed to attain — running 1000 miles. That’s a rather arbitrary number, but it supports the larger theme I’ve set for myself this year, consistency. In short, it’s much easier to run 1000 miles in a year if you are consistent and manage your effort over time. To attain this goal, I have to run a little more than 19 miles per week, every week, without fail. Every week that I run exactly 19.2 miles [or therabouts], I stay precisely on pace. If I run 20 or more miles, then I squeak ahead; run less and I lag behind. Every week, I face this calculation, and as a project manager, I find it an interesting and instructive challenge.
Project managers are taught to measure everything that can be measured to be able to demonstrate that schedules are being met, costs are under control, quality is being delivered, and the project stakeholders’ expectations are being met. There’s more to project management than crunching reports and producing spreadsheets, but at the end of the day, that’s how we demonstrate that we are doing our job. We generate all these charts showing trendlines showing our projects are either above the line [e.g., over budget, which is bad], under the line [e.g., under budget, which may or may not be bad], or right on target [a rare, blissful, and usually short-lived state of being where everything is ticking along as planned].
And so I have approached my running this year as a project to be managed like a software installation or bridge construction. I plan my week. I schedule my runs. I set distance goals for the day, week, and month. I have milestones [i.e., races] that I use to demonstrate progress. There are risks I have to manage such as my health, the weather, the demands placed on my time and energy by other areas of my life, and the threat getting run over by cars. In fact, of the nine knowledge areas of project management, most of them apply to how I try to keep my training on track.
- Scope management means knowing what the work is and what it isn’t. It involves staying focused on the work to be done and having the discipline to avoid what isn’t. For example, I am training for half-marathons. I don’t need to run more than 13 miles, ever, in training. I don’t care about speed, so no matter how much I may be tempted, intervals or 100 meter sprint drills are out of scope.
Time management is huge. For me this means scheduling my runs each week, and rearranging that schedule when life throws me a curve ball. It means dropping what I’m doing when my computer tells me it’s time to run and running. Like this week, I going to have to figure out how to get to 19.2 miles despite the fact I did not run Monday through Wednesday. Maybe I won’t — and that is a risk — but I need to think about it.
Cost management is a funny one. People say that running is the most inexpensive hobby/sport out there. These people are high. Good running shoes cost money. Race fees cost money. Decent running clothes cost money. Like my dog, these costs will endlessly gobble up whatever cash is available to them. In other words, I have to manage my budget. For example, I would like a good heart monitor, but I know that I’ll need new shoes very soon. Given what my feet and knees are telling me right now, I need shoes more urgently so the heart rate monitor has to wait. Cost management sucks.
HR management is easy. Since I have a project team of one, I only have to worry about the care and feeding of one employee. However, I’m a lazy, distractable, tempermental, spoiled employee that cannot be fired. I need constant motivation and reassurance. I’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know this.
Quality management. How do I know I am succeeding? Are my runs paying off? How do I measure that? Do I worry about improvements with my pace only, or does my ability to run farther count? The ultimate tests of the quality of my runs are the races, but as those might be considered deliverables, perhaps I need to think about some sort of measurement of my progress in between races. Reviewing my running logs/journals is one idea.
Risk management. What is my backup plan if I have a surprise lunch meeting and cannot run? How do I ensure I stay uninjured? Am I eating the right things to keep my energy level up? How do I make sure I run while I travel and what if the hotel area isn’t pedestrian friendly? Among these other things, running consistently is about anticipating risks and making backup plans. Running consistently means that I run to the plan, but it’s also important to not be such a slave to the plan that hiccups and setbacks derail everything. I’ve benched myself before because, oh well, I missed today’s run. Might as well take the week off. Wrong. Risk management means that, when you have a bad day, you have a plan to keep on going despite of it.
Communications management. This is all about producing data and reports, keeping stakeholders informed, and making everything transparent to all who could possibly be interested. Nike+ captures my running data, and this blog captures most of the non-technical reporting. This stuff allows me to look back and see how far I have come, but it also adds a layer of accountability. I feel drawn to write here, and if I don’t run, then I have nothing to write about. I fantasize that you teeming millions are my customers, tapping your feet, waiting for me to run and post, run and post, run and post. It’s a lie I tell myself, but it motivates me.
Procurement management has, to some extent, to do with contracting, and since I cannot really outsource my running, it’s not applicable. But it also has to do with purchases and acquisitions, so that’s where I keep my eye on the market for new gadgets, clothes, races, gels, drinks, and foods. Frankly, I don’t do this as much as other people, so I’ll move on.
Integration management. Integration management brings everything together. Integration management has to do with keeping all the parts moving, communicating, and functioning as planned. For me as a runner, that means that I have to make sure I keep my focus and my commitments. I have to make sure my time constraints don’t affect my quality, that my motivation level doesn’t push me to go beyond my scope and, for example, try doing intervals.
Ed Hammerbeck, PMP, is a software/business analyst for the Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District. For nearly ten years, primarily in the public sector, he has led cross-functional teams through software implementation projects ranging from small database applications for departments and workgroups to enterprise software implementations.
Over the last couple years, as his interest in technical details has waned, his interest in the human and business side of IT has increased. IT-business alignment, user advocacy, agile project management, and change management have been recent obsessions of his.
He is an active volunteer leader for the America’s SAP User Group and his local PMI Chapter. He also is a devoted father, husband, and runner. His chief claim to fame on the internet is a seldom-visited, irregularly-updated running blog called A Viking Running.