Ironman Triathlon and Project Management - more similar than one may think

When I am not an active ‘ANT’ working with our amazing clients managing ServiceNow HRSD implementations, I am more than likely either sleeping, eating, playing with my beloved dog Tyke, or doing activities related to swimming, biking, and running. Ironman/triathlon and project management couldn’t be two subjects that are more disparate. But are they really?

November 23, 2020

Both Ironman training and project management require a great deal of initial planning. You need to envision your end goal - for me during the 2012 season that end goal was the Ironman Florida finish line. I printed a picture of the finish line and had it on my refrigerator for daily reminders. Working with our clients at The Anti, this visualization is key to have in the back of your mind. Thinking about the end goal, and the impact it will have enterprise wide is key to both motivating through the day to day activities as well as ensuring success. There are many days where the training that lies ahead of you in Ironman training that quite honestly seems impossible. But much like Project Management, you take one step (or task) at a time. Before you know it, you have completed the workout, training block, or project milestones. 

Training and racing Ironman requires a good bit of adaptability - this is also the same for project management. Something will go wrong in the course of an Ironman (which can last up to 17 hours for some participants). Projects will have hiccups just as well. In both cases, you can either relish in the error/mishap or you can approach the next few steps with a pragmatic and logical mindset. In both areas reacting with emotions is not conducive to continuing back on the path to success.


In both areas, the acknowledgment of smaller feats is key to the momentum of the project or Ironman. Celebrate the wins, whether big or small. In the case of an Ironman, it could be that you rode 10 miles of the bike perfectly in your mind, and executed the pacing and fueling plan to the T. 

Finally - the finish line or Go Begin phase in an HRSD implementation. This is the moment you (and your team) have been working on for the last few months or years - relish in the victory. Don’t be so quick to rush through the finish line that you trip on your own feet and in turn ruin your moment of glory. Getting across the finish line with precision is just as important as the prior planning that needs to be done in the early stages of a project and/or a training block building up for Ironman. 

Once the implementation or race passes - this is the best time to do a retrospective. For me after an Ironman, I am noting every detail of my equipment (IE specific tires and wheels used, helmet, race suit worn, tire pressure), extensive tracking of my weight and nutrition/diet starting 48 hours prior to the race start. This is also a great time to recount what you did well and what you need to work on or areas that require improvement. This analysis isn’t just on the execution of the race, but also on the planning and execution of the related training needed to race an Ironman. For instance, did I feel that a specific type of workout stimulus would have benefited my preparation (IE Hill repeats to train for a hilly bike course)?

Outside of the triathlon realm, this resonates also within the HRSD area. Take a step back with your key project members to perform a project retrospective. Do not just focus on the Go-Live itself, but also on the earliest stages (Initiate) and requirement gathering stage (Prepare). What activities were missed or perhaps done improperly? How can the organization execute better in the process? What are some key lessons learned or ‘AHA’ moments?

With all that being said, regardless of if you are in the Ironman realm or project management realm, it is important to take a step back and examine all aspects from start to finish. Every stage, event, task, training session or race offers a great point of reflection, especially at the culmination. These are the times to learn more about yourself or your organization.

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