dumb bells on whiteFor those who know me well, you know I am 100% addicted to CrossFit. CrossFit is a high intensity workout that has absolutely been the core of my personal transformation from 30lbs overweight and 20%+ body fat to less than 15% body fat and overweight being a thing of the past.  CrossFit is a mental game and it’s a personal commitment.  Most importantly, though, it requires sound judgement, because you can get hurt.

This morning, my workout of the day (WoD) seemed innocuous on paper:

4 rounds
10 Power Snatch (95/65)
20 Box Jump (24/20)
25 KB Swings (53/35)

Some of this must sound like CrossFit-ese to you, but to put it in layman’s terms:

  • do an Olympic lift called a Power Snatch with 95 lbs (45lb bar + 25lb plates*2 on the bar).  That value is what we called the RX weight.  It’s the weight you should strive to stay at as you workout.  Of course, as you can see, in addition to the other weights designated here, you have do that lift 10 times in a single round – ideally unbroken.
  • When you’re done with that, do 20 box jumps (literally jumping onto a box)
  • and then finish the round with 25 swings of a kettle bell – again the weight to the right means that men should ideally be able to completely the round swinging a 53 lb kettle bell.  And, oh, by the way, you need to do this all for time.  Yes, the weight to the right is the “women’s” weight…but I have seen some women smoke me on weight…so whatever….

This morning, I was faced with a dilemma.  After round 2 at the RX weights, I was tired under the weight of both the barbell and the kettle bell.  I had to make a quick decision because the clock was ticking:  do I push through and just slow down?  Or, do I drop the weights and keep going for time?

  • If I push through, I am going to build strength.
  • If I drop the weights, I’ll keep up the momentum and have a more cardiovascular focused workout, but will sacrifice the opportunity to build the strength that staying at the RX weight would provide.

My coach saw the dilemma I was faced with, too.  She saw that I was already slowing down and almost recommended that I not drop the weights, but in the end she chose to let me make my own choice.

Hmm…push through or reduce the difficulty to get a better time.  Sounds a lot like “accept the existing scope, risk quality and potentially still miss the mark?” or “reduce the scope and make the date?”…right?

How many times as Project Managers have you been faced with this primordial debate?  Two or three times for me this week and it’s only Monday!  And the reality is that the answer lies in the eyes of what the business will accept.  Often times, the scope is immutable and you just have to lean in, fight the pain and persevere – this, too shall pass and your team can sleep on the other side.  Other times, the date is more important than the scope, your team can focus on delivering on time, by sacrificing some function for proper form.

The choice I made this morning was that I’d rather finish in 20 minutes than finish in 40. Also I could feel that my form was giving way to bad habits.  My back was curving.  I stopped feeling safe.  It was better for me (I thought) to focus on form and build myself up to the RX weight at the requisite amount of reps and rounds.  It was a judgement call, admittedly.  After the workout, we did a quick Sprint Retrospective and there were clearly people on either side of my decision.

In my professional life, these are the judgement calls I am constantly faced with as a Project Manager.  Just as I gauged my belief in myself at my CrossFit gym; in the workplace, I have to balance what the business is requesting with what my team is capable of doing.  It’s about the people and what’s inside them.  Some teams can burn the midnight oil without sacrifice to quality.  Others, need more time.  You could push them, but the output will not reflect the best they can do.  In these moments, it might be better negotiate with your business sponsor a solution that delivers the full scope but at a slower rate.  The theory here is that the business will never forget poor quality, but a re-negotiated date can often fade in people’s memories.

Just like this morning, there are no easy answers, just judgment calls made in the middle of the workout. Some days you’ll “RX” it and finish strong.  Other days you’ll have to accept reality and “lower the scope” to make sure you deliver a less robust product in a more acceptable time frame.   The key is to know the signs of a project in distress.  Analyze the risk indicators early and try to correct them as early as possible.  Know your people.  Make the right decision – not necessarily always the one that feels good…but the right one to make.  And lead with confidence.

Happy PMP’ing!

Jonathan Goldstein
McKinney, Texas