“For my part, I am not a great believer in bad luck on the cricket field, in business—in fact, any walk of life.” AB de Villiers
AB de Villiers is right. Bad luck doesn’t exist, only poor preparation and execution of the task at hand.
Cricket, which AB de Villiers mastered, is a glorious game. It can thrill or disappoint in equal measure - often on the same day. And In some ways, cricket is a metaphor for business.
There are highs and lows, successes and failures, good days and bad.
It got me thinking: what other parallels are there between cricket and business? And in particular, on the wicket that Vsourz plays on - running complex digital projects.
Here are my thoughts.
Teamwork is an obvious parallel. While a batter, bowler, or even a fielder can be the main driving force in a victory, you can’t win the game without a team. Cricket is 100% a team game, and eleven players are needed.
There may be a star bowler that takes the lion’s share of wickets or a batter that scores a match-winning innings. But a team still needs that awkward 17 runs from a tail-ender or the ‘dolly’ caught by a wicket-keeper to finish off a game.
When you’re running a complex digital project, you may rely on star coders to handle the trickiest tasks that deliver advanced project objectives. But without the customer service rep to communicate with the client or the junior to handle the CSS file, your project will remain incomplete. Teamwork delivers the win for digital projects.
Test cricket is unique in the world of sporting events. A team game running over five days has no parallel with any other sport. To win a test match, a cricket team needs endurance. It can require bowling for lengthy spells on a hot, dusty wicket favouring the opposition batsmen who keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Sometimes a team’s batsmen face a daunting second inning’s run chase and need to bat it out over several days. In each circumstance, the cricketer must draw on their focus and endurance reserves to achieve their objective.
Sometimes a digital project needs endurance too. Not all cricket games are won with glorious strikes to the boundary. Many a run chase relies on grinding out singles and doubles. So when a digital project task list seems repetitive and over facing, it takes endurance and discipline to deliver each one.
In cricket, the skipper leads the team through each high and low. They pick the batting order, who’s next up to bowl, and sets the fielding positions to find the team’s best chance of winning. The captain shines bright in the glory of victory but must shoulder the burden when the team falls short.
And there’s even more to the skipper than in-game decisions. They must portray authority, confidence, and sportsmanship on and off the field.
In business, a project’s team leader plays the role of the skipper. They must find the right strategy to meet the project’s goals. It could be selecting the best software platforms, the most effective project management methodology, and putting the right people in the right roles.
Then when it’s time to judge the overall project’s success, they thrive or fall on the results of their actions. They are the first to take the blame when something goes wrong and should be the last to accept the glory of a project well done.
In cricket, specialism is fundamental to the game. The most talented batsmen appear high in the running order to give the team the best chance of a high total. The skipper picks the bowler with the most appropriate skills for the moment to bowl.
Specialism runs deep in cricket, and there are some situations where only one player can fill a role. Sometimes you need a lesser batsman who’s still equipped with confidence to play as the night-watchman, and you’ll likely need a spinner for when the wicket begins to break down.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have an all-rounder. Someone that can fill every role—these superstar performers are great to have on your team.
When you’re running a digital project, you’ll probably face the unexpected which you have to meet head-on. So when you’re putting a project team together, you want to make sure you have the depth of experience and specialism to cope with every situation—if you can find a superstar all-rounder to add to the mix, much the better.
No matter how well you prepare for cricket or business (or life!), factors beyond your control can suddenly shock you.
A team could be ticking over just dandy in cricket, as they comfortably chase down an easy run target. When suddenly the heavens open, and now they’re really up against it. Similarly, your team could head out with supreme confidence as they start an overseas tour—that’s right up until they see the wicket that the home team’s prepared!
When you are managing a digital project, you have to be wary of external factors, too. The economy, politics, and not to mention pandemics can all play their part in pulling a team’s focus from its goals.
In cricket or business, the response should be the same. Get your team to draw strength from each other and meet the challenge head-on.
Ultimately, cricket, like digital projects, is a team sport. I think Virat Kohli put it best when he said—
“No cricket team in the world depends on one or two players. The team always plays to win.” Virat Kohli