An Epiphany from IPPT?!

Posted On: October 5, 2009
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Comments: 3 Responses

Every year, most Singaporean males go through the process of training up for their IPPT (Individual Physical Proficiency Test). The current requirement of the NS Men is to pass the IPPT within a one-year window of your birthday. You may try as many times as you like, even if you managed to pass but will like to achieve a better result (and reward). As I age, I find it harder and harder to meet the grade. This is sometimes a case of the mind being willing, but the body says, “I give up! Stop torturing me!”.

And thus, I failed again in my last window. Which resulted in my having to attend RT (Remedial Training). Phase One of RT consists of eight sessions of twice per week. On the eighth session, we go through another round of IPPT to determine if we need to go through Phase Two. Well, I failed again… on 2 stations – chin-ups and 2.4km run. I needed 3 chin-ups, but I did 2. Technically I did 4, but had 2 discounted as the instructor said I did not fully straighten my arms and I kicked… he must have mistaken me for the guy before me. For my run, I missed by a mere 13 seconds, which is actually not that close if you know that a world-record 400m sprint takes over 40 secs. Ok, at this point I request that the reader stop laughing at my plight, and work with me on the strategy to pass the 2.4km run 😀

The below drawing shows the target timings of consistently clocking 2 minutes for each round of the track, such that we finish with a timing of 12 minutes. What happened on my last test, is shown with the “actual” (approximate) timings of each round. The first round was fine, as I clocked in below the target of 2 minutes. But as I progressed, my heart rate quickened, my panting gets louder and my feet gets heavier. Each round finds a slower and more tired man crawling past the finishing line.

Notice that my last round was actually quicker than the previous two. That was because my mind kicked in upon seeing the timings at the end of the 5th round and I knew I had to stretch my legs and put in more effort to catch up. However, that was probably too late, as my body and mind was already deflated at that point, and I found it hard to push myself. Imagine if I had shaved off say an average of 5 seconds from each of the  previous 5 rounds to give me 25 seconds, I would have made it.

This brings me to my epiphany from the analysis of how I failed my 2.4 km run.

  1. Preparation. It goes without saying that no success is possible without a fair amount of preparation work. Be it lifting weights in the gym or sprinting from your apartment to the bus stop, every little bit helps if you prepare beforehand.
  2. Consistency. As strategized in the above diagram, if I had prepared and clocked in 2 minutes for each round, passing the 2.4km run would have been quite easily achievable. And even with a slight buffer, I should not have to play catch up in the last round if the previous rounds were better.
  3. Last minute effort is doomed. There comes a point when you are so far behind, that no amount of effort put in the end, can save your butt.

Drawing a parallel of the above to my current project work, I can see a lot of causes for concern. Although the project has been going on for a long while, I see many areas in which we are not prepared. There are no contingencies, skillsets of the people are lacking, the processes are not put properly in place… the list goes on. Being poorly prepared, we find ourselves playing catch up all the time. Even when we fall behind in schedule, there was not enough done upfront to bring the state of affairs back to a reasonable level (saving the 5 secs each round). Finally, we are currently in the last lap of the run, and we find that no amount of effort put in will be enough. The project team is tired, their minds sapped of energy, they carry out their duties day-to-day going through motions. No amount of whipping from Indiana Jones will be able to push them forward.

Thus, from my new-found insight, I think my current project is doomed for failure 🙁