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Unleashing success! What IT Project Management can learn from Crufts

Blog by Nicol Cutts, Head of Projects, Professional Services at Stoneseed.

Crufts, the world’s most prestigious dog show, just happened in Birmingham (as I write) – and I was there.

Now, it may feel like an unlikely source of inspiration for IT Project Management, but as both our worlds are all about “best in class” I thought it might be fun to explore the parallels between Crufts and IT Project Management! It turns out there are many! Which is fortunate, because having thought of the title “Unleashing Success” there was no way I was letting this one go!

1 – The Value of Reward

If you’ve ever trained a puppy, you’ll know the value of a “treat” to reward good behaviour, like sitting or staying on command. I think most dogs know the word “biscuit” before they learn their own name, mind you, I know some PMs who are as partial to a bourbon or chocolate malted milk, she writes dunking a digestive! At Crufts I saw a lot of treats passed from owner to dog with a “good boy” or “good girl”. Rewards are vital to the process.

It’s the same in IT Project Management, often our portfolio is so congested that we forget to adequately celebrate reached milestones or delivered projects. I get it, we’re busy, but I think it’s a mistake! It’s worth having a bottle or two of fizz in the fridge ready for a celebratory glass with the team, this can also act as a great motivator when you stick a post-it note to the bottle bearing the goal that will “pop the cork” – a reminder of the mission and the reward every time you reach for the milk! Powerful! From Friday afternoon beers to Friday morning doughnuts, rewards reap! It doesn’t have to pile on the calories though, a bonus afternoon off or early finish, and extra hour for lunch or a voucher for a spa day are all effective rewards.

Should we ever be too busy to celebrate our success?

2 – Attention to EVERY Detail

Have you seen the level of grooming that goes on at Crufts!? The judges’ pore over every aspect of a dog’s appearance and behaviour, everything is meticulously examined!

Similarly, IT Project Managers need a keen eye for detail, all elements of our IT projects are ultimately scrutinised and by the harshest of judges – clients and stakeholders. From project plans to timelines to deliverables, attention to detail is as important to project success. The owners of Viking, the Australian Shepherd that won Best in Show left nothing to chance. By leaving no stone unturned, IT Project Management teams can minimise risk, errors and oversights and ensure that their projects meet all the requirements of the judges.

Interestingly, I noticed many dogs at Crufts were given a “once-over” by someone who hadn’t groomed them, often a fresh pair of eyes can spot something that the person working on the dog had missed. In IT Project Management, Stoneseed’s advisory services can provide you with a fresh pair of eyes that make sure you’re not missing a metaphorical rogue patch of fur!

3 – Clarity Of Communication

It was a joy to watch the handlers at Crufts effortlessly give clear signals to their dogs, who in turn displayed their understanding by executing the command!

Effective communication is essential in IT Project Management but isn’t always in abundance! Project Management communication channels must be clear, open, and transparent and avoid sending out confusing signals. We want seamless collaboration between team members, stakeholders, and clients, but sometimes end up with a dog standing up that you’ve told to sit! Clear communication helps to prevent misunderstandings, aligns everyone’s expectations, and keeps your IT Project on track with regular meetings, accessible status reports, and concise project documentation.

4 – Results Focussed Approach

Ultimately, the goal of entering a dog at Crufts is to achieve success. It’s nice to take part but you want the awards and the recognition – you want to take home a trophy and a rosette.

Similarly, IT Project Managers must focus on delivering successful outcomes for their projects, regardless of distractions! At Crufts, there was a lot of media hype about Sting (yes from The Police and Fields of Gold fame) taking on Chris Amoo (yes from The Real Thing!), this melee didn’t distract their focus (Chris’ wolfhounds beat Sting’s), but both packs kept their eye on the prize!

Whether it’s completing the project on time, within budget, or meeting the client’s expectations, IT project managers also must keep their eyes firmly fixed on their own end goal, regardless of distractions like scope creep or resourcing issues – remember Stoneseed’s Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) can help with those.

By prioritising results and outcomes, project managers steer projects towards success, drive business change and achieve maximum value for stakeholders – better than a rosette or a trophy any day!!

5 – Preparation and Training

The levels of training and preparation that the dogs at Crufts undergo is mind-blowing!! I had no idea! To perform at their best on the day, owners and dogs really put in the hours!!

IT Project Management teams need similar levels of attention to skills and capabilities. Our teams must be well-prepared and adequately trained to take on the challenges of projects, acquiring the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources needed to execute projects effectively.

A well-trained dog is more likely to perform in the show ring, likewise, a well-prepared project team is better equipped to handle the demands of their project, again Stoneseed’s PMaaS can be a one stop shop for any capability gaps and talent from outside your team can be a bonus potent upskilling resource.

As the most successful owners at Crufts continuously refine their techniques and strategies to improve their dogs and performance, a culture of continuous project management improvement will thrive. Learning from past projects and implementing best practices to guarantee future project outcomes, reflecting on experience, and identifying areas for improvement, and seeking opportunities for growth, IT Project Managers evolve and adapt to meet the ever-changing demands of business and markets led IT projects.

6 – Adaptability and Flexibility

A few unexpected situations arose at Crufts, each time both handlers and dogs adapted quickly.

Adaptability and flexibility are the key to us navigating changes, risks, and unforeseen circumstances that arise during a project’s lifecycle.

Stoneseed’s PMaaS is built on pillars of flexibility – you can flex resources based on your delivery needs. So, thinking about it, perhaps embracing adaptability is the best course of action, certainly the response of a dog to an unforeseen occurrence would play well with the judges at Crufts! Project managers who can respond effectively to challenges, adjust their plans as needed, and keep the project moving forward attract the “judges” attention in our world too!

7 – Teamwork

Honestly, the bonds between the handlers and the dogs brought a lump to my throat more than once.

Naturally, effective teamwork and a bond between all team members is essential for achieving IT project goals too. A collaborative environment where team members support and rely on each other to deliver results is among the most powerful forces we can harness. Strong relationships, open communication, and a genuine sense of camaraderie and “we are all in this together” bring out collective strengths of a team.

So, in conclusion, the connection between Crufts and IT project management may not have seemed immediately obvious, but the principles, processes and practices observed in both worlds are many-fold, it turns out.

From attention to detail to clear communication, adaptability, and teamwork, observations from a day or two at Crufts can unleash our full potential and lead our teams to success. So much so, I’m going to ask my boss if my ticket is a claimable expense!

Thanks for reading.

Find out more about Project Management as a Service from Stoneseed

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