DNF - Did Nothing Fatal

“Know when to fold 'em”

If you’re familiar with racing you’ve probably come across the acronym DNF, “Did Not Finish”. When an athlete, or team, starts an event but is unable to finish usually due to mechanical failure or injury. This term is not reserved for elite sports men and women, but also for us amateurs out there competing in local events or while training for an epic adventure. I have found myself needing to cut things short when a poorly placed foot has had me head over heels for a close encounter with some gravel. However, I recently came across a different definition which better captures the why of DNF, “Did Nothing Fatal”.

Not being able to finish something we’ve set out to do can be disappointing, especially when it’s a goal with many hours of training in the bank. You should push through some pain as you strive to finish that endurance event or chase your next personal best, but if your knee starts to burn getting worse with every stride, it might be time to reflect on why you’re out there. We all want to be challenged, to feel that sense of achievement, but it’s very rarely worth serious injury, or something fatal!

While out on the trails, whether racing or training, it’s important to always be conscious of your body and be prepared to re-evaluate. As athletes (yep that includes amateurs) we want to prevent a niggle from evolving into an injury.

Ankle sore on the downhill? Give it five… still sore? Walk for five… try again… getting worse? It’s probably time to stop!

Bring this back into a business setting, gazing through the eyes of a project manager, this should sound similar to an agile methodology. You want to be flexible, developing iteratively, so that all stakeholders are involved and agree on the direction. The ability to adjust your plans to changing requirements allows mistakes to be corrected early, avoiding budget blowouts and/or unsatisfied customers.

Whether running the next big race or managing a project “Did Nothing Fatal” is about being able to change your plans on the fly. Making sure that little niggles, or small mistakes, don’t turn into something fatal. Athletes want to avoid injury so that they can keep doing what they love. Project managers want to deliver an affordable solution to clients which satisfies their needs. You might not finish the race today, but by not doing anything fatal you’re able to hit the ground running tomorrow.

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