Tour de France sport has been plagued by doping scandals and attracted bad publicity in recent years.
If you are not an avid Tour de France follower, or even a professional cycling supporter, you are not to blame.
From a Project Management perspective however the Tour de France is an absolute marvel and a study par excellence in Risk Management, Scheduling, Dependency Management, Communication Management, Stakeholder Management…the list can go on! It is a huge annual event and actually consists of multiple small projects, all within one massive programme!
In short, we can learn a lot about good Project Management from studying the Tour de France.
Each stage can conversely be equated to a project. Each day is unique (i.e. a different route travelled each day) with a specific start and a specific end… no two days being the same!
The stakeholders need to be managed, briefed, taken care of, and kept safe each day.
The plethora of risks need to be identified, managed, and actively monitored daily, with active mitigations ready on the trigger, should circumstances call for it.
The 2020 instalment of the Tour de France started with 22 teams of 8 riders each. If you add the team managers, cycle technicians, mechanics, team dieticians, personal chefs, physiotherapists, and general support staff, then you arrive at about 440 active participants moving each day from one town to the next over the course of 3 weeks covering 180km on average each day. This tallies up to approximately 3400 km and 90 hours of active cycling and live media coverage.
Add to this the 30 odd race officials on motorcycles, some of which carry cameramen, the 22 team cars, the 22 tour busses and the 3 Eurocopter AS350s flying overhead, then you get the idea of the sheer volume of traffic which moves each day as the race progresses.
To complicate matters, every day the route for the following day needs to be cordoned and barricaded, swept from a safety and security perspective and made safe with high visibility signage and safety cushioning.
The demarcated route from the preceding day needs to be decommissioned and returned to active usage for the public.
Each day, for most of the average 180km route, the public spectators need to be accommodated and managed with viewing and parking space, ablution facilities and amenities.
Each day the media centre needs to be assembled and the podium constructed.
All of this is facilitated by a dedicated logistics service provider with a team of 68 drivers and 52 trucks, moving the 420 tonnes of equipment every single day!
Then we have not even started talking about the complications which the anti-doping procedures bring to each day.
Independent mobile testing facilities need to be relocated and operated to accommodate twice daily testing slots in the early morning and late evening. These facilities need to be kept sterile as tests can include urine, blood or both.
Not all the cyclists are tested daily, but the sampling is still relatively high to combat the possibility of micro-dosing.
And just to top it off, we might assume that hotels are fully functioning across the route and that accommodation can be left to sort itself out.
Well guess again!
Each rider’s personal baggage of approximately 20kg needs to be considered, with their personal pillow for maximum rest and recovery!
Add to this 1000 nutrition gels, 80 litres of water and 3000 water bottles…and this is merely for a single team!
Like previous years, the Tour de France is covered by approximately 2000 journalists from roughly 600 media outlets. Including about 68 radio networks, 87 TV channels, 99 photo agencies and 347 newspapers, press agencies and internet websites.
So from an organiser’s perspective, you do not want anything to go wrong…otherwise it will be global within seconds. The media risk alone makes for a Risk Manager’s worst nightmare, especially if coverage protocols need to be enforced in the event of graphic accidents or (like in the past) road fatalities.
As can be seen from the text the event consumes a tremendous amount of manpower, but like most modern-day sport spectacles, it has become a commercial commodity in its own right, with revenues in the triple-digit millions.
So next time when you bemoan the health of your project and contemplate switching careers, switch-on the telly and immerse yourself in an international sport spectacle, because these events take Project Management to the next level! May you never look upon the Tour de France with the same perspective!
Yours in Project Management!
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