Hurry Hard - Hitting the Button for Project Success

An image of a treasure map.

The eyes of the curling world are firmly affixed to our home town of London, Ontario as our friends at the Western Fair District are currently hosting the World Financial Group Continental Cup. And it got me thinking that there are some clear lessons you can learn from curling that can help you skip potential blocks and bring the hammer down on successful project completion!

Now, I’m not going to say I’m an expert on the sport, but I have participated no fewer than four times over the past 20 or so years, so… And I’m never one to shy away from a good sports analogy.

Hurry, Hard

Curling is a sport where having a strong team that is able to work well with each other and quickly understand requirements matters. A few-second delay between being told to sweep and execution can be all the difference between success and failure. Communication from the top-down is vital. And everyone from the skip on down to the third plays a vital role in the success of the endeavour.

This is no different than on a successful project. Just as curlers need to know how to immediately respond to “hurry,” “hard,” “sweep,” and “stop” so too does a project team need to understand and execute instruction in a timely fashion. A cohesive team can make a project run smoothly and avoid unnecessary detours or expensive rework caused by lack of clarity.

Small Missteps at the Start can Have Huge Ramifications

For the past few years, I’ve been invited to a bonspiel hosted by friends of mine. None of us are pros and most people just try not to hurt themselves. But last year, for the first time, I felt that I had a clue. The one player on our team who knew how to curl showed me how to execute a proper in-turn and out-turn in a way that I understood.

It was incredible. Suddenly, I was actually curling my stone properly. It made sense and it improved my skills immeasurably.

And what struck me most was how little actual movement you need on a stone at the beginning to make a huge difference at the end. Just a few inches of over or under-rotation at the start can be the difference between perfectly placing your rock on the button or missing the house entirely.

That’s why, on any project, you want to make sure you’ve clearly identified expectations, deliverables, and responsibilities. It’s better to ensure that everyone’s on the same page up front, so that you’re not dealing with significant course corrections down the road. Whether you’re executing a shot or delivering a website, you never want to hear the words, “Well, that’s not what I was expecting” at the end.

Sweeping Far Enough in Advance to Clear a Path to Success

What’s the point of sweeping? It’s to reduce the amount of friction that can slow down your rock’s progress. If you haven’t swept enough and your rock has lost momentum, no amount of retroactive or delayed sweeping will help you regain it. You need to monitor the environment, assess the weight of the rock, and adjust your sweeping throughout the process to ensure a smooth and steady progression to get you where you intend to go.

And is that really any different from a project? The projects that work have team members who are surveying the bigger picture, looking ahead and identifying potential roadblocks or friction points along the way, and then setting in motion activities that help slow down the project’s momentum.

Different Ways to Deal with Obstacles

The goal of every end in curling is to have shot rock -- the stone closest to the button. And, when working on a project, you can often face barriers that appear to be an impediment to your success.

So how do you deal with them? Just like in curling, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

For example, in curling, when faced with a stone that’s blocking your progress, you can rear back and use all your weight to take it out (which is an immensely satisfying feeling). But the challenge with that is that very action may have negative effects on the positive actions you’ve taken -- say, accidentally hitting a better positioned rock behind the guard. Sometimes subtlety is more effective -- curling a rock around a guide, raising a rock to put it closer to the button.

That ability to analyze the situation and be flexible in your approach is a key to any sort of conflict resolution. Sometimes pushing forward straight ahead isn’t the best way to solve a problem -- and sometimes that barrier is in place for a perfectly solid reason. So analyzing the situation and coming up with the best approach to get where you need to go is a skill that can be invaluable to a project’s success.

Plan for Success

In sports, winning comes from a combination of tactical planning, talent, and execution, which is no different than for any project that you have. Luck can be a factor, but through proper preparation, training, and skill, you can make your own luck and enjoy a positive experience.

In the end, it’s about having the right team, the right skills, the right knowledge, and the right plan that ensures you’re as close to on the button as you can be, each and every time!



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