What’s Your Professional Olympics?
A consultant to the Games shares learnings from one of the world’s biggest project plans.
When Alexis Malure led the program management office for WPP’s 2018 global engagement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), she was embedded at the IOC’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Alexis worked with the IOC’s communications, media relations, brand, and marketing departments to activate a media and content campaign to promote PyeongChang 2018 worldwide, and to provide strategic counsel on crisis and issues preparation and response, reporting directly to the IOC’s then-Strategic Communications Director.
It was a major undertaking. But even if your project plan isn’t of Olympic proportions, these learnings from organizing the massive Games process can apply.
TIP #1 LEAN ON YOUR NETWORK
The organizational and legal structure of the Olympic Movement is complex. The Olympic Charter establishes the legal status for the IOC as well as the roles of the International Federations and National Olympic Committees. In addition to these institutions, there are Organizing Committees of the Olympic Games, specific to the Games’ host country, and the many international and national sporting organizations and federations that represent Olympic sports and athletes.
Understanding the roles, responsibilities and jurisdictions of these institutions is often opaque to those less familiar with the Olympic Movement, which can make driving consensus and cross-organization collaboration daunting.
Luckily, given the breadth of the Movement and global brand recognition of the Olympic Rings, it’s likely that someone in your professional network has participated in or has touched the Olympic Movement in their career.
When facing a complex project, reach out to connections to get helpful background on the people, places or processes you’re engaging, and lean into their experiences to craft a successful path for your team’s participation/work.
When kicking off your Olympic Games’ program, it’s helpful to first build a stakeholder map to decode organizational complexity for your team. Then, reach out to your network to better understand workflows, spheres of influence and decision-making, and to gather additional institutional color that could impact ways of working. This can become critical intel for new member onboardings, partner briefings and can inform your communications cadence and approach for the broader program.
#2 PLAN FOR THE UNEXPECTED… AND HAVE A BACKUP PLAN FOR THAT, TOO
From cyberattacks to doping scandals and the forging of new lines of communication, my time working for IOC was nothing short of uneventful.
As news stories play out on the international stage, internal consultant teams must quickly adjust communications, marketing, and operational strategies to the day’s latest scenario.
While most consultants come to the job with clear program plans to structure their collaboration, change is a constant. This means you should come to the work with several contingency plans – whether its alternate resourcing plans, strategic frameworks, or even alternative plans for where and how you’ll work with stakeholders – in your back pocket.
For example, the project might only require virtual collaboration with the IOC or organizing committee counterparts. However as plans change and needs evolve, your presence onsite at the Games might now be necessary. Anticipating this scenario and sketching an outline of time, cost and potential business impacts prior to project kickoff can help you to avoid the proverbial fire drill, and to enable you to deliver immediate value quicker. As with the Games, time is always of the essence.
#3 TAKE A DEEP BREATH & ENJOY THE MOMENT
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of organizing one of the largest and most effective international marketing platforms in the world. But it’s important to also reflect on the broader significance of your work, and to celebrate the Games’ positive social, cultural, political and economic impacts, regardless of how large or small your contribution may seem.
Your efforts are helping to facilitate global competition on the playing field rather than on the battlefield, advocate the use of sport to promote peace, education, health, and intercultural dialogue and promote the triumph of the human spirit. That’s worth taking a moment to reflect on.
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