Thursday, July 31, 2008

Peak Performance

What is peak performance? and why does it matter in IT/project management? If you do a google search, most of the results have to do with gyms, clothing lines and sports stores...(so much for Google remaining relevant). Peak performance in Wiki is about a ski company in Sweden...well, here's my understanding. Peak performance is: the highest possible, positive output obtained in a specified field by a planned approach in specific time frame. My, very amateur, understanding is that a well trained athlete reaches peak every 10-12 weeks of an extensive training course (2-3 months prep time prior to a boxing match, 2-3 months prep time prior to a bicycle race, etc.). So, what does this have to do with IT and project management? This goes back to what makes projects successful - understanding the most critical component - people. Plan all you want, buy all the fancy, top of the line hardware/software, hire the best consultants, stuff the kitchens with bagels and pizza - but without the most critical component - PEOPLE - nothing much/good happens. And if this is the most critical ingredient, we also need to understand how to get the best performance from them (aka people). The good ol'e Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing plays right into peak performance - there has to be a specific 'peak performance' cycle that needs to be considered for projects. If peak performance does play into a project's ability to succeed - which I'm more then sure it does - then instead of 'bending' people/peak-performance-period to fit the project deliverables and time-line MAYBE just maybe, we need to ensure that the project timeline fits into the teams peak performance timeline. For instance - let's stay with the 10-12 weeks and the Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing idea, then a typical project or phase of a project should not extend this period of time....perhaps this is where Agile approaches (sprints) get their biggest benefit from...10-12 weeks of work (peaking out) - 2 weeks of downtime - and back again...
If those 'dumb athletes' understand this - why don't we? There's a lot to understand (here's a good/okay article: via Rhino fitness - also where the graph is from). Next steps? someone like a Capers Jones - needs to do some serious research..but gut feel is that this is another area of required understanding for project managers.

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