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Week 10. The Project Managers training blog by Paul Bradley SPOCE MD

It's already week 10 of SPOCE MD Paul Bradley's training schedule for the London Marathon. This week he assesses his training 'progress' and aligns this with how project progress is gauged against plan. One key feature of this is 'tolerance'. Tolerance allows for changes to the plan, giving the project team some autonomy without needing to escalate every single tweak to the project sponsor. 

4th September 2022 - Marathon day minus 4 weeks


With just 4 weeks left until the London Marathon, and a break to Spain coming up later in the week, I needed to take a decision on whether to have a week out, or take the trainers with me...

My week began very well with a donation that carried me through the fundraising target. We are now at 107%! Bouyed by this milestone, I took on a new route of 10 miles with Coach Guy, and what a great 10 miles that was. We decided to drive to the start location rather than begin from home. This worked really well as it gave us a different perspective throughout the run. Rather than running out and back, we ran towards home and then away again. The 10 miles was a pretty hilly and we completed it at an 8:30 minutes per mile pace. It really felt like a great workout, and we both felt good at the end of it.

The next run was at the weekly #runFAR 5km meet which I increased to 5 miles. I made it a more sociable run, but still had some good splits with the mile ratio. It was then time to step back and evaluate the plan, look at the progress made, so I could take a decision on whether to take my running kit on holiday.

Progress against plan

Progress is a term generally used in project management to review and report on the plan based on what has been achieved. Included in this theme are mechanisms to record events, issues, risks and lessons using reports, registers and logs. The plan is updated with the actual work performed, and then a summary sent to stakeholders to keep them informed. If necessary, the plan will be updated to ensure the work being performed will achieve what was originally planned, in the time and cost that was agreed at the start of the work.

The importance of tolerance

A key feature often used is tolerance. Tolerance is an agreed level of deviation from an approved plan. Agreeing a level of deviation (e.g. +/- 10% on the costs) enables the project manager to handle events and issues without always having to involve their superior (sponsor). This arrangement, also known as 'manage by exception' enables the project manager to manage each stage of the project and saves time for the sponsor and the project manager by reducing unnecessary escalation. It works best when everyone understands the principles and benefits of manage by exception, but this could mean a change of mindset for some.

In the event that we need more resources such as money or time in order to put the plan back on track, then the situation must be escalated to the sponsor.

My 'final' training plan

After evaluating my own plan, I decided not to take my running kit away with me, but instead to rest these tired legs, concentrate on some core exercises, and then hit the training hard on my return. More about that in the next blog. My training plan has seen many changes over the last couple of months, a number of months, and with 4 weeks remaining we are still on target to meet all criteria on 2nd October. I will be sticking closely to the latest plan from here on in, which is fairly typical as the project nears the end. This is because we know much more about the remainder of the work in hand, and have gained much knowledge over time. So the week's training finished with a total of 15 miles.

What's next?

The next two weeks will see this mileage increase, before I start to taper in readiness for the big day.

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.