Straight Talk on Project Management

Back of the net

Share this post


RSS feed

Back of the net: seven Lioness inspired IT Project Management lessons

ooooow! Are you still buzzing too?!

England’s Lionesses inspired the whole country with their Women’s Euro ’22 win on the 31st July.

In the week and a bit since the final and me writing this, I’ve mentioned Sarina Wiegman and her squad of heroines many times in IT Project Management conversations with colleagues and clients.

There are so many parallels between the project that Sarina led to success and those that we aspire to, so many lessons and reminders of best practice.

Here are just seven.

Back Of The Net: Seven Lioness Inspired IT Project Management Lessons   

1 – Know your talent

Did you know that England’s number one Mary Earps questioned her future in the international game recently? The Nottingham born, Manchester United goalkeeper, who had a stand-out tournament, told BBC Breakfast that she had made her peace with “not being an England player any longer” after being dropped from the squad. She’d had a hard couple of years, younger players were pushing her for the number one shirt but then, as she said, “Sarina came in in the September and everything changed”.

Sarina’s belief in Mary and her insight into what Mary would bring to the squad made a huge difference, some of her saves were world class and game changing.

Lesson: Know your squad and what they can deliver.     

2 – Build a team with All the skills you need

Related to this is the importance of building a complementary team of individuals with the skills that work together. Throughout the tournament, but especially in the final, it was obvious that Sarina had all bases covered with her team members’ strengths. The Lionesses were blessed that they had a woman for every position and tournament need.

Often in IT Project Management it can feel like your team is lacking a certain skill or discipline, whether it’s a recurring issue like a lack of a Business Analyst or a temporary skills gap caused by illness or maternity, in this regard you have an advantage over Sarina.

Thanks to Stoneseed’s “Project Management as a Service” (PMaaS) you can have access to a team of Project Management and Technical Professionals delivering services through a flexible, on-demand resourcing model. Project Managers, Business Analysts, Technical Advisory and PMO experts are available onsite or remote, on a cost effective, full-time or part-time basis.

3 – Great substitutions

Knowing when to ‘parachute’ game changing talent into your IT Project’s delivery timeline can make all the difference to your outcomes. Just like Sarina’s amazing substitutions, a personnel change at a crucial time is a pressurised judgement call. Happily, Sarina’s decisions on calling players off the bench were on-point through the whole championship and never more so than in the final.

Remember, Germany equalised shortly after Chloe Kelly came on. England were now chasing a winner but Chloe hadn’t scored a single competitive international goal before that night, she replaced Beth Mead who was the tournament’s golden boot winner! What a substitution it turned out to be.

Stoneseed’s IT Project Management experience and access to world class talent can help you substitute in just the player you need to change your game.     

4 – Trust

Georgia Stanway was booked quite early in the match and the referee had been making some ‘interesting’ calls. One misjudged challenge could have left England playing out the game a player down. Interestingly, Georgia had been booked in the semi-final and had been substituted soon after to keep her available for the final – what would Sarina do? She trusted her player and the trust was rewarded.

Ian Wright summed it up best on Twitter, “Georgia Stanway playing 65 min on a yellow card at 23 years old in front of 87k fans at Wembley in a European Championship final. Elite.”

In Project Management, it’s important to know when to trust your talent to keep their heads. You picked them for your team for a reason – remember to trust that judgement when the going gets tough!

Trust is also a key element when integrating Project Management as a Service talent into your operation. Too many ‘providers’ of Project Management services are recruitment agencies rebadged. Your provider should be a partner in your success, at Stoneseed we won’t just provide a project manager (for instance) – we’ll provide the right project manager for your culture and specific project needs.

5 – Keeping cool as stakeholder scrutiny and expectations rise

Can you remember how England’s Lionesses did in their first match of the tournament? Most people I asked couldn’t. I think they beat Austria 1-0 but even I’m tempted to Google to check! The point is that interest grew, media attention intensified, slowly everyone became a fan. If any of this ramped up the pressure, it didn’t show on the way Sarina and her team went about their business. They stuck with the same starting eleven, maintained the same discipline, Sarina looked as calm in the final as they did in that first game.

As projects move closer to delivery, do you ever find that stakeholder scrutiny intensifies? A friend is working on a project right now that delivers next month and she tells me that, between green-light and now, there’s been stakeholder radio silence. Suddenly, it’s as if they’re sat on her shoulder! She found herself becoming anxious and over-thinking, because it felt as if every move was now under the microscope. Managing pressure is what we’re great at – remember that when things get intense.      

6 – Don’t settle for good when GREAT is in reach

When the Lionesses went in 6-0 at half-time against Norway, I heard someone on the radio joke that England’s men would have ‘parked the bus’ in the second half, ended the match 6-6 and then lost on penalties. It made me smile! In reality, the Lionesses came out with a similar gusto and finished winning 8-0.

The lesson for us in Project Management is that the project equivalent of a 6-0 win is a good outcome, but an 8-0 win is an amazing one. Keep an eye out for those extra deliverables or the efficiencies you can make that weren’t apparent in the planning phase, 

7 – The value of a good coach

From Mary Earps in goal to Beth Mead’s golden boot, there’s no doubting the absolute talent and quality of the whole England squad. The quality of those coming off the bench to change games underlines this. Talent doesn’t always win though, it takes a great coach to make a great team, to devise strategies that will guarantee success, to instil belief, nurture resilience and create a culture that becomes a flywheel that drives itself.

That’s what Sarina did and it’s what you do when you build and motivate an IT Project team.

Like you, Sarina had previous! She lifted the trophy for the second Euros in a row, with different nations. Again, that’s what you do – different projects, different business case, different team players … same winning outcome! Don’t ever underestimate your value as a coach.

Also, did you notice, often when the camera panned to Sarina she’d be discussing options with assistant Arjan Veurink? When managing a team, I’ve always believed that it’s important to take counsel and objective input from all quarters. Your team and your project are feeding back to you all the time – make sure that you’re listening.

And for an objective, fresh pair of eyes, Stoneseed’s project portfolio assessment and gap analysis services are a great way of getting an alternative, baggage free perspective – we could be the Arjan to your Sarina.     

BONUS – know how to celebrate

Lastly, make sure you celebrate your victories! We’re quick to beat ourselves up and introspect insanely when things go wrong but, especially post pandemic, many teams aren’t giving themselves the credit they deserve when they deliver a project that exactly meets and delivers business need.

Those Lionesses KNEW how to celebrate! Now, I’m not suggesting whipping off your blouse or shirt and running to the door in your sports bra, nor do I think invading the boardroom and climbing on the table singing “It’s coming home” would be appropriate for you and I – but let’s agree to celebrate (properly) the utter joy of a job well done. Champagne at least, right?

Check-out Stoneseed’s extensive team sheet of Project Management services and when you feel a need to add to your project squad, call us on 01623 723910 or email

In the meantime, congratulations again to the Lionesses and thanks for reading!

And here’s to the next successful project, for the Lionesses that’s Australia/New Zealand Women’s World Cup ’23, and for you and I …