Service Excellence

Project Management Should Be An Olympic Sport

Robert Phelps By Robert Phelps Global Project & Program Management Consulting Lead August 14, 2017

Managing large or complex projects i.e. data protection, hybrid cloud solutions and data center consolidations, require the skills of athletes, ancient athletes that is; anything less won’t do.

Skills, Endurance and Ability

Project Managers are skilled, persistent, capable and critical. An astounding 97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success (Burger, 2016).

It’s not too difficult to draw the analogy that a project manager is similar to a pentathlete participating in the ancient Greek Olympic Games. The pentathlon tested a warrior’s skills, endurance and abilities in the sprint, long jump, javelin throw, discus throw and wrestling.

Speed, Accuracy and Reflexes Required

The sprint was a 100 meter dash, running as fast as you can to the finish line. The long jump combined speed, strength and agility to leap as far forward as possible from the starting line. The javelin throw was the event where a light spear (over 8 feet or 2.5 meters) was thrown by hand, to achieve the greatest accuracy and distance. To throw the javelin, one must possess great aim, strength and form. The discus throw was the event where a heavy disc (over 4 lbs. or 2 kilograms) was launched in hopes of throwing it further than circlethe competitors. And wrestling, the most popular organized sport in Ancient Greece, was regarded as the best expression of strength out of all the competitions.

The pentathlete needed muscles and reflexes suited to almost any kind of physical feat. It’s no surprise that a pentathlete was considered to be among the most skilled athletes. In fact, the skills required of a pentathlete were thought to be useful in war, so the exercises practiced by pentathletes were often part of military training.

Modern day project managers engaged in complex, challenging and difficult projects must possess many of the same skills as the ancient Greek pentathlete. Consider the project manager sprinting or racing at full speed to get the project started, finished or meet milestones in-between. On your mark, get set, go…and they’re off. Busy organizing, planning, contacting, scheduling and facilitating, hoping they don’t stumble, trip or run out of breath or steam. Often rising early and working late, the modern project manager must be in great mental shape, extremely organized and energetic.

Project managers also jump long distances to fully understand the project scope, schedule, budget, resources and stakeholder requirements, all to deliver projects with excellence. One day they know nothing of the customer, environment, scope, budget and requirements, and the next day they are the subject matter experts regarding every aspect of the project.

Project management practitioners must have great aim, strength and form as they identify milestones, facilitate collaboration and execute delivery with accuracy. With the precision of a javelin thrower, the project manager communicates clearly, controls challenge and change and hits their target precisely, exceeding customer expectations.

armProject leaders handle risk, issues and difficult situations, frequently bearing the tremendous weight and responsibility of expectations.  Often by sheer determination, stamina and resolve, the project manager (like a discus thrower) throws to their side the weight of distraction, remaining focused on the end result and stakeholder satisfaction.

Project management, modern day corporate athletes must wrestle with, compete for, and constantly strive to overcome obstacles, setbacks and delays. Project managers often endure strong arm tactics, reversals and violations of position but remain steadfast in their resolve.

Corporate Athletes

Indeed, project managers often represent the strongest, fastest and most versatile corporate athletes in the workplace today. Their DNA of credibility, collaboration and control provides the best opportunity to exceed expectations resulting in extremely satisfied customers.

For all they do, all they represent and all they endure, congratulate a project manager for being the modern day Pentathlete driven towards success.


If you are interested in learning about Project change, you can read Top 5 Causes of Project Change


The following links provide additional insight on the importance of project management:

The value of project management. https://www.tensteppm.com/open/A1ValueofPM.html

The advantages of having a project manager; how project managers can improve business.  https://www.villanovau.com/resources/project-management/project-manager-advantages/#.WYE-LcLruR0

10 reasons why Project Management matters.  http://2020projectmanagement.com/2015/10/10-reasons-why-project-management-matters/

Robert Phelps

About Robert Phelps


Global Project & Program Management Consulting Lead

With more than 14 years at Dell EMC and over 30 years of consulting, project/program management, and professional training experience, Robert has expertise in program management for large complex IT Transformation solutions, hardware/software deployment, education analysis, curriculum design, and training delivery methods.

Robert has participated in the management and deployment of hardware, software, and training solutions to more than 300,000 personnel in 230 locations worldwide.

Robert is innovative, methodical, and creative. Leading a team of senior program manager direct reports, Robert led the efforts to create, develop, and deploy the program management methodology (DEPGM2) for Dell EMC. In addition to his methodical and innovative side, Robert has authored numerous articles, videos, collateral and books including playbooks, pre-sales collateral, and strategic and transformed living guides and books.

Robert has participated in numerous civic organizations, taught at the US Army War College, served as adjunct faculty at George Washington University, and has numerous interests including camping, boating, writing, traveling, and playing music.

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