Executing an NBA Coach Model as a Project Manager

Kevin Torf
Apr 28 · 4 min read

When project managers plan, oversee and provide guidance and strategy on key tasks, they are inherently emulating an NBA coach model to steer their team toward success.

Simply put, project managers are seasoned leaders who provide strong foundations on which their teams are built — just like NBA coaches — empowering each individual to deliver their autonomous and specialized expertise. The goal? To work together as one cohesive unit to ensure the win throughout a project, every step of the way.

If you’ve ever watched coaches on the sideline during games, you’ve probably noticed that each has his or her own unique coaching style based on what works best for both the coach and the team, just as project managers do. There’s a lot to be learned from the NBA coach model, such as the importance of analyzing metrics to create strategies for improvement, overcoming unforeseeable obstacles with quick pivots, guiding a team to success through passion and more.

Whether you’re prepping your team for a game or a project, it’s your job as a leader to endow your team with the resources they need to deliver maximum potential and continually add value. Although each individual may have focused tasks specific to his or her strengths, everyone must work together as a collective, dribbling towards a singular, specific goal.

As a project manager, what can you do to ensure that your team is sufficiently preparing to tackle each challenge with drive and a passion for success? While this isn’t a comprehensive list of tips for team project success, here are three things you can do to implement the NBA coach model through your management techniques.

1. Shared Management Tools and Trackers

Utilizing management tools and trackers save time in the long run, but implementing these across your team will likely take additional preparation on your end as a project manager. Rely on these tools as valuable assets to maximize productivity across team members, tracking all team goals and ensuring deadlines are organized to promote transparency. Make these tracking tools easily available to all team members so they feel empowered to update their own priorities and progress. As your team becomes more familiar with these tools, identify any areas where team members may need additional management guidance based on the data, with a goal of increasing efficiency as a unit.

2. Reward Team Members

Give credit where credit is due! All team members want to be recognized for their own unique contributions and expertise. Encourage communication and build trust by providing positive feedback and asking team members for their own points of view. Include team members in important discussions. Empower the team to hold each other accountable. And, don’t forget to spark and feed passion by acknowledging both large and small achievements as you guide your team to be self-sufficient, successful and manage expectations.

3. Switch Up the Routine

A prepared team can handle anything thrown its way, from impromptu product demos and pop-up client visits to unplanned requests for information from leadership and beyond. As a project manager, you should set the expectation that things can change in the blink of an eye, and team members should be ready to effectively adjust based on various situations. For instance, try giving everyone on the team a chance to deliver status reports and lead calls or meetings. Surprise your team by running an internal meeting in a different way. Changing routines will challenge your team to adjust to any circumstance with poise, grace and agility.

When applied to project management, embracing the NBA coach model methodology allows project managers to tap into the knowledge-rich resource of their teams, each with its own unique combination of personalities, work styles and more. It illuminates the importance of seeking input from individuals and the team as a collective before, during and after the planning process. It highlights the value of allowing team members to articulate and define what needs to be done to achieve success, and how long they estimate tasks will take to complete. And, lastly, it empowers project managers and team members to take accountability and become fully vested in securing the win for themselves, the team and the organization. When team members feel as though their input is valued and respected, they feel a deeper sense of connection to their work and overall drive to deliver results on an individual and team level.

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About Kevin Torf

Kevin Torf, co-founder and managing partner of T2 Tech Group, has been a renowned innovator and thought leader in the technology industry for over 35 years, specializing in large-scale IT strategic planning, project design and implementation. Kevin brings decades of experience in complex application deployment, IT architecture, electrical engineering and data center construction, infrastructure and consolidation, particularly within the healthcare space.

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