In Project Management

I’m a pilot, a private pilot, and have been for 15 years. I’m also a ChangeQuest trainer and educator and a project manager. Flying is similar to managing projects! Every flight is unique, has uncertainty and risk (they are different), a start and finish, needs careful planning and delivers and outcome. Well, to keep current, I went flying last Friday. Like running projects, if you want to get good at it, then you need to keep confident and experienced in running them; there is nothing like learning on the job (flying in my case, but completely unpaid!).

The visibility was not brilliant, so I decided to do 3 circuits and bumps (but, hopefully, not too bumpy!). The first one was a little scratchy, a little low, and the landing was slightly bumpy and not as gentle as I would like. But, after that, I began to get into ’the groove’ and my next 2 circuits were ’tight’, with very smooth landings. I started to relax – “I am good at this”, I thought. I was alone up there and I was enjoying myself so much that I decided to do an extra one (not part of the original plan). Always quit when you are ahead (just like project management)! Everything was going fine, but then another aircraft joined the circuit; this slightly distracted me because I wanted to ensure separation and I now had someone behind me. This was going to be my last landing so make it a good one, and I now had an audience. Well, on the descent, things were not quite right. I was high and hot (too fast). So I closed the throttle more. On final, again things did not look as they usually did – what was wrong? I just could not work out why this approach ’felt’ different to my last 3?

Down we went then I flared over the threshold and floated and floated and floated before the wheels finally touched the grass runway. Phew, I was down and it was, after all, a nice, gentle landing – I am well-pleased with myself! Right, get off the runway quickly because that other aircraft is behind me, and don’t forget to get your flaps up because you should not taxi with your flaps down. Went to touch the electric flap selector switch, only to discover my flaps were in the up position! I had forgotten to lower the flaps! Idiot! That was the reason things did not ’feel’ right on approach. What a silly, basic, mistake to make.

Lessons learned from that flight, which are also hugely applicable to projects:

  • Quit while you are ahead – leave on a good note!
  • Stick to the plan – don’t go the extra (unplanned) mile!
  • Don’t get cocky – project managers should be humble because things can go wrong really quickly
  • Don’t relax until the flight/project has completely finished
  • Don’t get distracted – focus on your project, nothing else matters

Enjoy your project management education and training – these courses give you a licence to learn.

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