Remember this picture from India’s campaign in the 2018 Asian Games – a young athlete covered in sweat, pink bandage keeping the excruciating lower jaw pain in check and a beatific smile that said to the world, yes, we can? The daughter of a daily-wager mother and paralysed father from one of the poorest parts of West Bengal, Swapna Burman proved where patience, training and perseverance can take you, right up to the podium finish at the Asiad. Not only Swapna, the entire Indian contingent displayed grit, determination, and a never-say-die attitude to bring home 15 Golds, 24 Silvers and 30 Bronzes – India’s highest medal tally ever in the Games.
Most medals this year, as we have seen in the last few editions of the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, and the Asiad, came from non-traditional games like shooting, boxing, wrestling and athletics, while the events where India traditionally shone, like hockey, kabaddi, archery and table tennis, were subdued. Medallists like Neeraj Chopra, Rahi Sarnobat, Saurabh Chaudhury, Manjit Singh, Arpinder Singh and Hima Das have since then become our newest celebrities.
There are many likely reasons for Team India’s gradually improving performance. The first is the drastic improvement in our sporting infrastructure undertaken by successive governments, starting with setting up Sports Authority of India (SAI) centres across the country, organizing regional sports meets, arranging sports scholarships and integrating sports into the curriculum of the educational institutions. The systemic integration has helped bring in raw talents from disadvantaged backgrounds and turned them into our medal hopes. The other contributing factors are initiatives like Khelo India, private participation, a National Sports Code, scholarships and awards such as Khel Ratna, events such as the FIFA under-17 World Cup and an influx of experienced foreign players and coaches. If this momentum remains strong, it’s likely that India’s performance would be better in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Put in the context of a project, India’s performance in the Games highlights the importance of planning and execution in a project lifecycle. It all begins with defining the requirement, aligning the project to achieve the scope and then executing successfully using the right mix of resources. As we know, a project plan is not only the schedule, but also the risk, resource, and quality management plans, among others.
In terms of resources, like a project, it was critically important to hire and retain a team that understood the objectives. The induction of experienced foreign coaches boosted the confidence of the players. There was also due diligence in recruiting support staff like dieticians, physios and assistant coaches, and organizing practice matches to keep the players motivated.
The execution of a project depends on not only the resources, but also the procedures, the monitoring and controlling mechanisms. It’s essential to keep an eye on the daily progress, highlight risks before they become issues and create back-ups. The synergy between the sports ministry and associations ensured that all rules (specifically drug control) were followed by everyone and deficiencies were highlighted for rectification.
Success needs dedication and practice. To improve this performance, it’s necessary to reduce mistakes and ensure we don’t make similar ones going forward. As managers of all high-performing project teams know, consistency is the secret to success. The Indian contingent would do good to remember that.
Thanks and Best Wishes
Tanish Mathur, PMP, PMI-ACP
Editorial Content Credit - Himadri S Chowdhury, PMP