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Project Management Lessons by Paddy Steinfort


At the back of a suburban football clubhouse in Adelaide’s western suburbs, a group of twenty-something men sat around playing cards. It was seemingly nothing out of the ordinary, the sport loving mates enjoying some light-hearted, non-competitive interaction. Yet this was one element of a significant mental health initiative, forming part of a program which borrowed greatly from Project Management theory.


The game of cards was part of a larger arrangement within the Adelaide Crows Football Club. In its early days it prompted many questions, all of which were some variant of this: when getting maximum value out of every player is the aim, can you get even greater value by developing them together rather than as individuals?


This approach was unusual for many reasons, not the least of which was the incorporation of psychological training as a preventive measure. But what was most significant was that it was being done together, in the same way a series of projects could be handled together to maximise value for the overall program.


I first learned this insight during my time with PSA, where I was able to work on a number of projects as part of the larger VBRRA program of reconstruction after the Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009. This was such a unique and sensitive environment that enhanced all aspects of the programs and projects, which demanded delivery of valued outcomes for those most in need.


Paul’s research on Program Management in post-disaster reconstruction highlights the importance of managing projects together – identifying key stakeholders, what they value, their desired outcomes and any available inputs. The learning was reinforced in practice in the country towns of Victoria as we took the donated funds and worked with community members to rebuild not only structures, but social fabric as well.


So, when I moved to the Crows to start my journey in pro sports, this was something I took with me. When I arrived, the club did not have a single first round draft pick in their senior side. Following the principles of program management & stakeholder engagement with ongoing monitoring and evaluation, they have since fallen just short a couple of times whilst undergoing incredible hardship. They have been widely recognised for playing above expectations in the process.


What do I do for the teams I’m with now in the USA? I’m a counsellor, coach, motivator and manager, depending on the day. And it’s the last one in particular that I wouldn’t be the same at without PSA. In my employment in the NBA (where I am working with the Philadelphia 76ers including Ben Simmons just signed on a $240m deal) to Major League Baseball (Toronto Bluejays) to the NFL (Philadelphia Eagles) and even the US Army, the ability to combine the inputs and outputs of multiple individuals with similar but different needs can be the difference between champions and disasters (metaphorically speaking).


Whether it be with All Star players, like Ben Simmons and teammates who I have been working with at Philadelphia, or all- encompassing projects, the end game is the same: get the most out of the individual part while working with the whole to help everyone get the most out of the entire program.

If project / program management were a game, that’s how winning would be done.

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