3 Lessons on Project Planning in a Pandemic
adidas project director Ryohei Ando reflects on preparing for the biggest sporting event of his career and its ever-moving finish line.
Impossible is Nothing has never resonated with me more than after what I’ve gone through with my team in Japan over the past 18 months.
When we re-introduced this campaign in March of this year, I saw my team and I as those rebellious optimists that featured on billboards around the world. We were on a project planning rollercoaster thanks to the global coronavirus pandemic and never knew what was around the corner.
The Rugby World Cup warm-up
I took on the role as Director for our Olympic project, having previously led adidas’ efforts at the 2019 Rugby World Cup held in Japan.
Having two global events running back-to-back on my doorstep was just a dream come true. You see, Japanese people are the kind of people that once they get into something they fly.
Back in 2002, when the soccer world cup was in Japan and Korea, people just went crazy. The same thing happened in 2019 with the rugby. I knew this summer would be even bigger. The legacy of the 1964 Olympics was tremendous. It opened up our country which indirectly made us wealthier and happier. Our infrastructure improved, as did our quality of life. It was a sporting moment that really made a difference.
Expectations in Japan
Fast forward to 2020 and now we have a struggling economy, we have some teens addicted to gaming, lonely elderly people, low birth rate, aging population. There was a huge expectation that the world’s biggest sporting event would bring of positivity and brightness to our society. Both the soccer and rugby world cups left a feeling of pride throughout the country.
But life isn’t always as we wish it to be. I truly believe that our value as human beings is being tested by this pandemic; how we react, how we lead our teams, and how we move the stones that we come up against when we are stopped in our tracks.
When the pandemic took hold in March 2020, we were ready to go into execution mode. So much work just had to be thrown away, but the first thing I told my team was let’s not be driven by what we cannot control. We can’t do anything about it.
Let’s stay focused on the issue in front of us and try to make one small step at a time. Do what we believe is right for the project planning.
Lead by taking a break
I had only joined the team six months before, but some team members had been driving this for years, so it was a tough moment for us to give up all the things we had.
My reaction as a leader was that it was impossible to switch gear right away. We took time to switch off completely… from our computers, phones etc. and took time off to turn off. We promised ourselves to come back with full energy and not to look back but to look ahead.
It took few weeks to come back. We had to reset ourselves and start with a blank canvas. The result of that blank canvas is now ‘See Sport Rise’ under the umbrella of Impossible is Nothing.
See Sport Rise
See Sport Rise is the perfect slogan for us, not just for adidas employees, but everyone around the world needs to see it as the moment to show that through sport, we have the power to change lives.
Sport may not be the solution – or have all the answers, but we should all revel in the performance of our athletes who will go out and give 120% to perform at their best.
The project planning I took on in November 2019 is nothing like what would happen in the summer of 2021, but I looked at what was in front of me and I’m proud that my rebellious optimism shone through. I’ll finish with my three learnings from the rollercoaster of project planning that’s now coming close to the finish line:
- Never take things for granted – playing sports, seeing sport, meeting with people, having fun with friends. We have to earn it sometimes. Appreciate the moment and enjoy what’s in front of us.
- Expect the unexpected – have the mindset of ‘what if…’ Be prepared for the worst-case scenario and have back up plans.
- We can’t change the past, but we can always change the future – What happened is what happened, but put it in the past and look ahead, look up and try to do something. It might seem small at the time, but just believe in the possibility you see.