No matter what kind of football you prefer, the one called “football” in the US or the one people there call “soccer”, they both have something in common right now: Training camp season has started.
NFL teams in the US and soccer teams all over Europe are getting ready for the new season. Training plans include stamina, agility, tactics, etc. – all the stuff that you will not be able to work on with sufficient time and dedication once the stressful season has started. In training camps, the teams build the basis for being successful, they can study new plays and moves, practice how to play together and get to know the new team mates. Meanwhile the coaches can develop a feeling what to expect from each of their players and whom to best put into which position.
Without a sound period of preparation, a team will not play a good season.
I wondered why we have no training camps in business. Okay, there are no seasons, but we have projects instead. And yes, projects usually have something like a kickoff meeting, but that’s not quite the same thing (the equivalent in sports would rather be the coach’s speech a couple of minutes prior to the first game).
If you would ask people this question, the most common answer you would probably get is that there are neither time nor resources available for that. The business world spins fast, one project follows the other and sometimes multiple projects run at the same time. In addition to that people don’t earn any money for the company while they are in a training camp. All that sounds correct, but then why doesn’t the NFL just extend the season by 6 weeks and skip the training camps?
The magic word is: performance.
If you go on and on and on, always trying to perform at the maximum of your abilities, because this project, this day, this meeting is extremely important, you can be sure that you will not deliver. When there are peaks, there will also be lows. That’s natural, a physical fact yet one that many ignore because they are controlled by their ego. “The others can’t do this, but I am able to always perform great”. Yeah, right.
The continuous chase for meeting project timelines and milestones will also not allow people to learn new things. Okay, every project is different and you’re always encountering new things while working on a new project, but you will never have the time and leisure to think into new directions, to learn completely new approaches, to broaden your horizon instead of narrowing it towards an optimum of efficiency that enables you to reach the project goals. If an organization just goes on from topic to topic and from project to project all the time, who is going to develop the organization further?
I know that my idea of training camps or whatever you would call the equivalent in business may sound utopian, but think about this: If people are able to recharge in such a camp, don’t you think they will be able to perform better, to focus better, to deliver better in the project afterwards? Why can’t we see a training period as an investment into the performance in upcoming projects instead of as a pure cost factor? And if one company offers those regular training camps to you and another company doesn’t, which one would you rather work for? The one that makes you a hamster running in a wheel or the one that helps you to broaden your horizon and develop your skills and capabilities? I believe training camps may become an important factor in recruiting in the future, and those organizations that typically work a lot in project settings, like the ones in the consulting or IT industry, are typically those that are/will be hit extremely hard by the currently developing “War for Talent”.
It can be done. Most projects don’t fall from heaven, there’s a certain rationale how projects are created. The issue is that we don’t care for that rationale, that we don’t try to plan projects well ahead. There is no reason why a project always has to come as a surprise. There are some exceptions, but if an organization would try to better schedule projects, everybody would know well in advance when the new season will start.
And what would the content of a business training camp be? Well, basically the same as in sports, which is why I will allow myself to quote what I wrote about sports training camps at the beginning of this post. The transfer to business is added in brackets:
In training camps, the (project) teams build the basis for being successful, they can study new plays and moves (strategies, methods, ideas, theories), practice how to play together (sic!) and get to know the new team mates. Meanwhile the coaches (project managers) can develop a feeling what to expect from each of their players (project team members) and whom to best put into which position (work stream).
Without a sound period of preparation, a team will not play a good season (perform well in the project).
It’s a long way to go towards implementing this idea in today’s companies and settings, but better performance of the individuals, better performance of the team and better options for recruiting capable personnel are a good reason to go for it. In business and in sports.