Everything I know about project time management

I learned in sports car racing



By Stacy Goff

Colorado, USA



The parallels between managing a successful project (including meeting due dates) and managing a successful amateur sports car racing campaign are striking. In this article, we explore those parallels, and the insights to be gained even by those who have never experienced life “at speed”.

Background: for six years, from 1975 through 1981, the author raced in Sports Car Club of America’s West Coast circuit. While this was amateur racing, we began with a Fiat 124 Spyder, and competed with some professional teams, who were funded by the car factories. The rationale: excel on the track on the weekend, and buyers will flock to the showrooms to buy the cars the following week. And it worked!

We were often successful competing with professional teams, but our greatest success came from a more-level playing field when we switched to Showroom Stock. In this class, cars had no modifications but increased tire pressure. The Great Racing Rabbit (left, ‘at speed’) set lap records on every track we ran, and was undefeated in three years of the toughest competitions West of the Mississippi. From these experiences we can distill the essence of managing project time.

The Edge Moves

Life on the edge on a closed-course racetrack (one with left and right turns, plus plenty of vertical curves) is an emotional high—approaching self-actualization, for some people. And yet, the more you practice, and the more you understand your abilities and those of your car, the faster you go. What was the very edge of control last weekend is your starting-point for optimization this weekend.

Preparations during the week certainly help. Making minor adjustments or major expenditures for new racing tires could significantly improve performance.

Our preparations were focused on the major events, with consistent-enough individual event success hopefully leading to a season championship. Our success measures and strategies were clear to all. Risks (threats and opportunities) applied both to us and our competition.

Through it all, the edge continued to move, until each new improvement had only minor impact on our success—we had hit the wall. Then we tried radical new approaches to go faster. Some of our innovations didn’t work at all; others did not work well at first, but opened the doors to new opportunities in the non-stop quest for speed.

Some race drivers don’t know where lies the edge. They never fail, so they don’t know what it feels like. Worse, they never learned how to recover from a failure. The secret we discovered was to fail small, to fail safe. Some fail big: Dead drivers never learn. So our first lesson to learn from racing in Project Time Management is to learn how to fail small so you know where your edge lies…


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally published in 2008 and posted on the IPMA-USA (asapm) website. It is republished here with the permission of the author. 2008 reader reactions are included at the end of this version.

About the Author

Stacy A. Goff

Colorado, USA



Stacy A. Goff, PMP®, IPMA Level-D®, the PM Performance Coach, is CEO of ProjectExperts®, a global Program and Project Management consulting, methods, tools and Learning consultancy.

A co-founder and past President of IPMA-USA, Stacy has been an officer in IPMA®, the International Project Management Association. In 2015, he was named an IPMA Honorary Fellow. As well, he has contributed to the success of the Project Management Institute since 1983.

A Project Management practitioner since 1970 and PPM consultant since 1982, he improves Enterprise or project team PM competence, efficiency, and Performance. Mr. Goff speaks at industry events, offers coaching and consulting services, and presents workshops of great interest to Executives, Managers, Project Managers and leaders, technical staff, and individual contributors.

His Project Management tools and methods are used by enterprises and consultancies on six continents. By 2000, his workshops had helped over 45,000 people improve their project success. He combines his PM Process insights with sensitivity for the human aspects of projects.

The result: Measurably increased project performance.

Stacy can be contacted at [email protected] or visit http://www.projectexperts.com/

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