DAL Delivery Leadership

A Marathon, Not a Sprint: How Long Distance Running Has Helped Conrado Morlan Be Agile in Program Management

Conrado Morlan

Whether it’s an Ironman or a client engagement, planning is key.

At least this rings true for Conrado Morlan, who leads the Delivery Leadership Line of Service at our Dallas business unit and whose list of athletic accomplishments “runs” the gamut — participated in one 70.3 Ironman (that’s a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a half marathon) that was cancelled due to bad weather while he was starting the run portion, several Olympic triathlons (a 0.93-mile swim, a 24.8-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run), 10 marathons and 15 half-marathons.

Conrado got into running when his 29-year-old son, Bruno Morlan, registered for a marathon and encouraged Conrado to at least try a half marathon. So Conrado began following a training plan app.

In 2011, he ran his first half marathon in San Antonio.

From there, he was hooked.

“It was like, if I can do a half, I can do a full,” Conrado said.

Conrado began to register for the same races as his son. His son was faster and always finished sooner (Bruno won second place in the Dallas marathon), but sharing the experience together made it fulfilling.

Later, a friend pushed him to do a triathlon. Conrado knew the challenges would be swimming and biking (he’d already run several marathons), so he borrowed a bike from his friend, one that wasn’t even his size, and began training. He enjoyed the triathlon, so he continued doing them — and even got a bike that fit!

The common thread across all these races is training, which requires planning. Conrado gets all the elements he needs — the type of gear he’ll use, the type of shoes, the type of nutrition, and then he tries different things.

Planning is also vital to the work Conrado does at Daugherty, where he’s served for 5 ½ years in project and program management. Often, he has to explore multiple areas to find what works best for the team.

Whenever he starts a project, he has a holistic view of what he’s going to do. He knows what he has to accomplish, but everything in between can be up in the air — as long as it gets him there. In a traditional environment, he spins up milestones and timelines. In Agile, he might not have the final view when he begins, but the team delivers progress that helps define the final requirements.

This isn’t too different from running a marathon. Even where Conrado has run the same marathon in the same location, the race is a little different every time.

“Usually, you’ll have to improvise in the middle of the run,” Conrado said.

It could be different weather conditions, the separation of station aids, having to carry a hydration belt for extra liquids, or areas of the road that are under construction. All this can impact Conrado’s pace.

The same goes with projects. For example, Conrado worked with a major airline, project managing the opening of airports in Costa Rica, Belize and Cuba. Even though the airline remained the same, the approaches were totally different — what with regulations and compliance and the time to factor those in.

At the beginning of an engagement, Conrado begins warming up, and doesn’t know everybody’s working style or how their space is. After two or three iterations, he begins to see what areas of the project are doing well, which are behind, and where the team will need an extra push to get everyone on the same level.

It’s a concept in the Agile mindset called Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Adjourning. The team forms and establishes ground roles. As members communicate their feelings, they still view themselves as individuals rather than part of a team, and resist control by group leaders — storming. But once they feel part of the team and realize they can achieve work if they accept other viewpoints, they begin norming. This leads to high performance, in an open and trusting atmosphere where flexibility is the key and hierarchy is of little importance. When the team adjourns, they assess their work and implement a plan for transitioning roles.

Likewise, with each run, Conrado warms up until he reaches his race pace. He finds out how many strides is comfortable, then stays in that zone, so he isn’t wasting energy he’ll need at the end. During this period, it’s an individual race, but once he’s arrived in that aerobic zone, he will often find somebody who’s at his pace and get on the same page with them, so he isn’t running by himself. Then, he will maintain that performance until he “adjourns” at the finish line.

And nothing is more satisfying than crossing the finish line (whether during a race or during an engagement) after months of intense training.

Do you have any unique quirks you’d like to share with the enterprise? Email us at Jake.Russell@daugherty.com.