I love this metaphor to help leadership, management and project teams all see the forest for the trees. Here are the key points I share:
Nobody will remember the turbulence, if the plane arrives on time and in the right city!
I used to fly quite often. One of my frequent destinations was New York. Depending on weather and other factors, it wasn’t unheard of having a flight to Kennedy re-routed to Laguardia or even Newark. In those days, it happened. But the one flight I remember best was one returning home to Chicago.
I remember one bad storm that caused our plan to circle O’Hare for what seemed like 2 hours. That delay, by itself, wasn’t out of the ordinary. The reason I remember this one trip is because when we landed, I found myself in Cleveland.
I’ve had my share of turbulent, strap-yourself-in and hold your breath, flights, that landed late. I don’t remember any specific ones. But, you better believe I remember when they re-routed us and we landed in Cleveland. I rented a car and drove ½ the night to make it to Chicago by the end of the day.
So What Did Success Look Like for My Many Trips?
- At a minimum: Land safely!
- It’s better if we land in the right city.
- It’s even better if we land in the right city at the right airport.
- I consider it a successful trip if we land within 60 minutes of our planned arrival time, in the right city in the right airport.
- It’s almost too good to be true if they had my preferred meal, I got a great view of a sunrise or sunset, and there was little turbulence.
And this is exactly how our stakeholders feel about our projects
- At a minimum, deliver “something of value”, even if late, without cancelling it due to budget and delays.
- If I can get all the functionality needed for the market, we’re doing better. Even with some bugs, I can work with that.
- And if it’s on schedule (or close to schedule) and budget, we’ll be celebrating!
But the one thing the teams should remember. Most flights have turbulence, and they run out of your preferred meals, and there’s unexpected weather and other challenges. In a year, no one will remember those details.
Make sure the project lands safely, with the appropriate functionality. Because everyone will remember the project that crashed landed.
I have another post that compares the PMO to Air Traffic Controllers. It shares best practices that helps you put in practice the lessons shared in this article. Stay tuned.