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Marathon Day | The Project Managers Training Blog

After months of preparation, planning, training and setbacks, Marathon Day is finally here. The subject of this weeks blog is aptly named 'Project Close.' Paul shares with us his race day experience, the gruelling 26 mile race and explains how to tie a project up successfully. But will he be able to close Project Marathon sucessfully with the 'risk' of injury surfacing again in his left leg.

2nd October 2022 - Marathon Day

Project Close, Post-Project Reviews and Managing Benefits

Many of the Project Close activities happen in the lead up to the end of the project. We can't close the project until we have gained acceptance by the customer; make provision for any follow-on work; and made a plan for how we intend to measure benefits in the months and years that follow.

The registers also need attending to. There are often risks and issues that need to be addressed. For example, where a risk has been identified during the project but didn't materialise, there might still be a threat in the future. There may also be risks that did happen, but the impact of these may be felt some time after the project has closed. All of this information will need to be handed over to the operation teams during project close.

So coming into the final week of my Marathon project was far from being an easy wind down. There has been a lot of uncertainty caused by the pain in my left leg. The injury was worse at the beginning of the week, but did ease off on the Wednesday. I did try a brief run, but was quickly reminded that the only chance of making the start line was to rest.

On the Thursday morning I booked in for a sports massage with Lydia Allen at LA Revival in Poole. After working on the leg for half an hour, she then moved onto the glutes and pinpointed the problem. The atmosphere in the room changed from apprehension to excitement - could she have just saved my Marathon?

Rest days

On the Friday I asked Coach whether I should try a 1km run on Saturday, the day before the marathon. His wisdom won through again with his response: "Running 1km will only prove that the leg will hold out for 1km. Wait until Sunday and see. What's the worse that can happen?" He was right. There was no point in spending vital resting time. "Be patient".

Sunday morning arrived with a 6.30am start. A quick shower, breakfast, and a train ride from Waterloo to Blackheath put me on the start line as planned. My thoughts were on the past week, and those risks regarding the left leg giving up on me. I felt good though, and I would know within the first two minutes whether I would be able to make it to the finish line.

Setting the criteria

Whilst in the starting pen I reflected on the marathon project, and thought about the criteria that I had set at the beginning. Could this all be signed off at the finish line?

Criteria

• Complete the Monday 8 miler route at a pace of 8 minutes per mile

o I managed to complete the route with an average pace of 7 minutes 53 seconds

• Run a minimum 400 miles during the training programme

o I managed 393.7 miles during the training programme. I didn't complete the last 6.7 miles because of the injury in the final week

• Raise as much awareness for the work of Sense charity through social media, blogs and training runs

o This is the 14th blog of the series, with the reach going to tens of thousands of people. Thanks to the marketing of my main sponsor SPOCE Project Management Limited

• Raise a minimum of £1,700 for Sense charity

o The fundraising target of £1,700 was exceeded 5 weeks ahead of schedule

• Complete the London Marathon in under 4 hours

o This was a personal Key Performance Indicator (KPI) which, if achieved, would be the final criteria to be completed

Other than the 400 training miles, all criteria this far has been achieved. Time to race.

The starting line

I started off fairly quickly, so consciously tried slowing my pace down. Feeling good through the first couple of miles, I was smiling as I passed the amazing crowds, now knowing that my injury would be fine.

I was warmed up and feeling comfortable. Competing the first 10k (6.2 miles) in 52m 18s, I came into Greenwich feeling fresh and full of energy. The crowds, which were 4-5 people thick at most points continued to drive me on. The high-fives and "power-up" boards gave me the extra boosts I needed. The London Marathon is an amazing event where the crowd are a tangible part of the run. As I came over Tower Bridge, I hit the half way mark in 1 hour 51 minutes, and was still feeling great. At 18 miles my predicted finish time was 3 hours 47 minutes. Everything was going well - until I got 20 miles.

The reocurrance of an old risk

The cramping in both thighs forced me to stop and stretch. I took some comfort in not being alone, as fellow runners held onto the barriers, using them as stretching apparatus. Every half a mile I would now stop and stretch, as my calf muscles joined in with the cramping. The crowd hadn't lost momentum though, and continued to will everyone to carry on to the finish. Time was slipping away though, but my belief was still there. Even when I saw I had 20 minutes of time until the 4 hour mark was up, with 3 miles to go, I thought maybe... just maybe. In projects, they call this over-optimistic estimating! The reality was my pace had dropped to 12 minutes per mile, so those last three miles were going to take at least 36 minutes, maybe more.

The finish line in sight

In the end, I did complete the 26.2 miles with an official time off 4 hours and 21 minutes. For the runners out there, Garmin/Strava recorded it as 26.7 miles with a time of 4 hours and 15 minutes (with no auto-pause). Crossing the finish line was quite a moment, and the finishers medal is quite something.

Towards the end of any project, provision needs to be made with regards the post implementation review and benefits management review. It's important to plan these post-project events before the project closes to ensure they do not fall between the gaps of project close and live operations.

End of project reporting

Before the project closes, an end project report will be written to summarise how the project performed against the original requirements and expectations. Also included would be lessons that can be usefully applied to other projects, and details of any unfinished work. Ongoing risks or potential modifications to the product in operational use, for passing on to the group charged with future support of the project’s products in their operational life should also be included. The following is a typical summary of the contents for such a report:

• Project Manager’s Report

o Business Case Review

o Benefits achieved to date

o Residual benefits expected (post-project)

o Expected net benefits

o Deviations from the approved Business Case

 

• Review of Project Objectives

o Time, Cost, Quality, Scope, Benefit and Risk performance against planned target

 

• Management Approaches and Controls Review

o Risk Management Approach Review

o Quality Management Approach Review

o Change Control Approach Review

o Communication Management Approach Review

o Reporting, Monitoring and Escalation

 

• Procedures Review

 

• Team Performance Review

o Product Review

o Quality records

o Approval records

o Off-specifications

o Project product handover

• Summary of Follow-on action Recommendations

 

• Lessons Report

o A review of what went well and what went badly, and any recommendations for future management consideration

Benefits reviews

The benefits management plan on the other hand should define the benefits management actions and benefits reviews that will be put in place to ensure that the project’s outcomes are achieved and confirm that the project’s benefits are realised. This would typically include:

• Benefits Reviews

o Actions to achieve Outcomes

o Expected Benefits

o Tolerance

o Baseline Measures

o Method of Measure

o Measurement Date(s)

o Staff Accountable

 

• Product Performance Assessment

o Product o Method of Assessment

o Beneficial Side Effects

o Adverse Side Effects o Required Action

o Action Owner

On completing the London Marathon project, it struck me that all the tangible business benefits are with the charity Sense.

They had 330 runners in this year's London Marathon, with a fundraising target of £561,000 - money that will be put towards improving life for everyone who is deafblind or has complex disabilities.

As for my own objectives and targets, I didn't achieve 400 miles in training, and I didn't achieve a sub 4-hour Marathon, but it dawned on me at the finish that some project criteria will never impact on the benefits, some are perhaps just personal wishes and goals. Until next year...

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who donated and contributed to my Marathon project, thanks to SPOCE for sponsoring the training courses, and to the team at SPOCE for supporting me with the publicity I needed to raise awareness and funds for Sense.

About Paul Bradley

Paul Bradley is a leading authority on project management methods and techniques. With over 25 years in the industry, Paul's knowledge and experience is respected by clients, accreditation bodies and training organisations globally. Paul has been the Managing Director of SPOCE since 2005, and is an accredited trainer for PRINCE2®, APM and AgilePM®. He is a regular presenter at seminars, providing information on project implementation drawn from his expertise as an accredited Axelos P3M3® Consultant. He has had two books published to enhance the training and use of PRINCE2®. Paul is also an active member and co founder of the renown RunFAR® initiative that raises both awareness and funds for charitable causes. The #RunFAR mission is to run for a reason and share a passion for running with others. 

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