To “fly” your projects safely and profitably, make sure you’re watching your gauges

To “fly” your projects safely and profitably, make sure you’re watching your gauges

Having the right indicators, measurements, and gauges is critical to making the right decisions and making sure everything goes as it should- in project management just as much in life. Eric, a previous navigator on a U.S. Air Force KC-135 airplane, learned the importance of using gauges and the information they provide over simply human intuition alone. Here’s his story:

From day one at flight school our instructors pounded into our heads that relying only on our senses to figure out what was going on with our aircraft was not an acceptable aviation practice. In fact, it was a fool’s journey that would eventually end in unrecoverable losses. Mechanical and biological losses, they stressed. The instructors backed up their warnings with piles of statistics documenting a number of untimely ends to perfectly good airplanes. All of these were directly attributable to one thing: the pilots failed to rely on their instruments and instead used their instincts to tell them what to do with the controls.

At one point the instructors decided to demonstrate how misguided our human senses could be. Each of us would sit blindfolded in a specially designed chair that sat inside what looked like a two-axis gyroscope. They then asked us what aerial maneuver we would like to perform—loop, barrel roll, split S, and so on. My last name began with A, so I became the first victim of the demonstration.

As I slid into the seat, the instructor directed me to put on the seat belt. That seemed ridiculous at the time—I was sitting in a chair on solid ground, not in an airplane—but I complied. I chose the split S as my maneuver, put on my blindfold, and waited for the adventure to begin.

They leaned me slightly to one side, and then slowly completed several horizontal rotations of the device, getting my inner ear acclimated to the gyrations. So far there hadn’t been anything close to vertical—head over heels—rotations. Then, suddenly, they stopped the horizontal rotations and leaned me back up straight. That’s when the chaos began. I thought I was being turned upside down and bucked out of the chair. My arms were flailing, trying to grab anything I could to arrest my fall. I was now thankful that I had that seatbelt on.

As my brain started to creep back to its usual moorings, I slowly became aware of the roar of laughter rising from the audience who were watching. I instantly realized that I had been fooled by my senses. I was still sitting upright in my chair and had never come close to being flipped upside down. But it sure felt that way. I became a believer that very day: we had to rely on our instruments. Instruments don’t lie. Senses, instincts, and gut feel lie on a regular basis

Running a project is something like flying a plane. If you have the right instruments and gauges, your odds of completing a safe and profitable journey increase a hundredfold. You know where you are and in which direction you’re headed. You know whether you’re in danger of running into an unforeseen source of trouble. You know how much leeway you have to make course corrections, and you don’t have to rely simply on intuition. And that’s good for projects, and good for business.

Source: Project Management for Profit by Roger Thomas, Joe Knight and Brad Angus, together with input from Joe Cornwell and Joe Van Den Berghe from Setpoint Inc.  Setpoint has a 25-year history of successfully designing and implementing custom rides and attractions for the top amusement and theme parks in the world.

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