Project Portfolio Management

What Race Cars Can Teach Us about Projects

If you’ve read our summary of Kevin Korterud’s 4 Signs to Pull Over and Stop a Project, you’re in for a real treat as we cover his supplemental article about the similarities between a race car and a successful project. Because race cars are a “marvel of engineering and performance”, we can’t help but relate that to a project where careful planning and constant monitoring of performance is essential to its success. When dealing with a project aka “project race car,” we ask ourselves whether it’s ready to win and reach its goal. For a successful project, Korterud outlines four essential components of a “project race car” which must be engineered and monitored well.

Four Essential Components of a “Project Race Car”

1. Engine

Korterud compares the engine of a racecar to the project’s business case. Having a strong business case is having a strong argument for the project; it’s what drives the project home.

2. Chassis

Comparing the chassis of a race car to the methods, processes, and tools of a project, Korterud says:

The power from the engine of a race car is transferred to its chassis, or structural framework, to propel it safely down the racetrack. The enabling infrastructure of the frame, wheels, suspension, steering and aerodynamic body all contribute to a smooth, fast ride. The same can be said of the methods, processes and tools that are a critical part of any project. These project management essentials must all be employed to work together in harmony for the project to move down the road.

3. Fuel

Resources to a project are like fuel to a car. It is important to have the right kind and the right amount of resources for a project to utilize. Choosing the wrong type and/or amount of fuel can prevent it “from making it across the finish line.”

4. Driver

The driver steers the car in a certain way to see results but also keeps in mind to keep a safe pace. Likewise, a project manager maneuvers the project in order to reach its goal with the minimum amount of negative impact on the project. A project manager has to take into account the risks the external environment may have on the project, just as a driver would with his racecar.

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