Posted by: kerrywills | November 7, 2009

Drafting my fantasy project team


With the baseball season over (go Yankees), so was my season of Fantasy Baseball. For those who don’t know what Fantasy Sports are, it is a way for those of us who are not athletically gifted to live vicariously through professional athletes (beyond just playing Wii baseball and wishing that we were dating Kate Hudson).

For the Fantasy Baseball league that I was a part of, I had to enter a draft pick with 11 other teams where we rotated selecting professional baseball players for our “fantasy” teams. Teams earned points based on how well they performed in each statistical categories. For the league that I was in each player made their ranked order of baseball players that they wanted first and then the league automatically created the draft and gave each person their team members.

This model seems similar to the projects that I have run in the past. Very rarely have I been on a project where I get to select all of the players that I want on the team (or have the good ones available to me). Usually I wind up on a project where the team has already been selected for me. Sometimes this means that I get some good players and sometimes it means that I get some players who would not necessarily make my draft roster. Like in my fantasy league, though, it is the project manager’s job to understand the team that they were given and to make some adjustments if needed.

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Here is a snapshot of the lineup that I started with for my fantasy team:
– Catcher, Joe Mauer
– 1B, Derek Lee
– 2B, Kaz Matsui
– SS, Ryan Theriot
– 3B, Edwin Encarnacion
– OF, Nelson Cruz
– OF, Johnny Damon
– Pitchers, Roy Halliday, Dan Haren, Johan Santana, Josh Beckett, Mariano Rivera and Brandon Morrow

There were a few strategies that I deployed once I got my team which are also the same options that Project Managers have available to them.

Build on strengths
I started off with four of the top ten pitchers in the league on my team so I knew that I would dominate a lot of the pitching categories. I therefore did not focus much time on the pitchers, but rather made sure that they all were active on the days that they pitched. Instead I focused my energy on augmenting the batting lineup.

It is important for project managers to know who the strong players are on their team and then build their teams and plans around those people. This allows project managers to delegate work to those strong players without needing much follow up and then to focus on other areas of the project which may need more attention.

Have the right fit
I knew that there were some players that were just not the right fit for my fantasy team. I saw quickly that I didn’t have a lot of power players which would hurt me in the “Home Run” and “Runs Batted In” categories. I made two early moves. First, I had to drop Kaz Matsui because I was able to find a second baseman who was available and who was more of a power batter (Dan Uggla). Secondly I couldn’t find a good third baseman for a few weeks and then another team in my league dropped one from their team who I was able to pick up (Ryan Zimmerman). This other team had two really good third basemans and therefore dropped Zimmerman who was a perfect addition to my team (he ended the season with 33 home runs).

With projects it is so important to have the right fit of people to roles. Team members who are not the right fit are less productive, get demoralized, product lower quality work, and tend to drag down other team members productivity as well. Therefore it is important to recognize when this is the case and consider replacing that person with someone who is a better fit for the role. Like with Ryan Zimmerman, on one team he was a backup player who probably didn’t get much playing time and then I picked him up and put him in my starting lineup. Project team members can also be underperforming on one project and then go to another one and be an all-star. I recognize that sometimes project managers don’t have many options of moving people on their teams, in which case they should consider ways to support the people who are struggling with their roles.

Have a balanced team
My strategy for the fantasy league was to make sure that I would be competitive in every statistical category. I made the moves mentioned earlier to augment my power hitting statistics. I also added some extra relief pitchers for saves, since this was also a weak area for me. I wanted to make sure that I had balance of skills across all of the baseball domains.

Project managers need to also build balanced teams. By recognizing the strengths and also areas where there isn’t such a great fit a project manager can look to balance the work according to the team’s composition. For example the project manager can team up stronger technical resources with weaker technical resources or share the workload across several members.

The results are in
At the end of the season my strategy had worked. I had dominated all of the pitching categories and was also a top three contender in all of the batting categories thanks to some of my player moves. There were other teams in the league with much better individual players (ARod, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, etc.) but it was the combination of having talent and balance across all areas that helped me to win.

Ideally project managers would be able to ‘draft’ the top talent for their teams. Since this doesn’t happen, they need to understand the composition of their team to identify strengths and gaps with fit and then look to balance the team properly. This will help them to be successful without necessarily having all of the all-stars on their team.

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Responses

  1. I love these articles on Project Management analogies.

    I have published quite a few myself (here’s one on project management and cooking.

    I would love to publish your article on PM Hut (I’m sure a lot of Project Manager will appreciate it), please either email me or contact me through the “Contact Us” form on the PM Hut site in case you’re OK with this.

  2. Interesting analogy from project mgt to fantasy baseball…. though I think you would be better suited to consider an auction style draft/league… Now I’ve never run a project internally at The Hartford but been involved in a few and it seemed like to me that many times there are other factors in choosing your project team- many times you aren’t even deciding who will be on your team. I think a PM would probably have a couple “chips” to use to try and secure those 1 or 2 critical resources for the project and then work with the talent given to them to fill out the team. IE: paying a high price to get AROD/Pujols (or in this case a strong SME) to build that team around…


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