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Project turbulence – find your blue skies

Updated: May 27

A front-view of an airplane flying amidst a blue sky

Every pilot gets to fly in completely blue skies. All they have to do is ascend high enough.

Look at any pilot’s pre-flight checklist. It leaves VERY little to chance.

Flying is without question one of mankind’s greatest achievements. For most of us, however, air travel is fraught with annoyances: lines, fluctuating ticket prices, cramped leg room, bad weather and turbulence. Overcast skies, rain or clouds can be depressing.

The pilots ensure a very high probability of a comfortable and successful flight. When you’re working on a project that either doesn’t have the approval, budget, or consensus to get started, you’re likely in the “cloud layer” and the turbulence that happens in the corporate world can be really unpleasant. Imagine if a pilot took off with insufficient engine power because they were told “we don’t have the budget”.

If, however, you have top-down approval, buy-in from the team and the resources to do great work, then it’s blue skies. All the pilot needs to do to avoid the rough weather is ascend high enough. Then they avoid it. If they don’t have enough fuel, power, or the right aircraft, they won’t get that high. Before they take off, they ensure that they can reach the cruising altitude, otherwise it’s not going to be pleasant.

Every time you compromise or remove critical ingredients for your project’s success, you are risking ending up in the cloud layer: that’s the layer where you’re questioned, or there are surprises or unforeseen setbacks. Planning and worrying up front gives you the equipment to ascend out of project turbulence.

If you encounter turbulence on a project, ask yourself “what changes could help me ascend out of this layer into blue skies?” Here are some examples:

– more financial resources / higher budget

– “the CEO says we are doing this”

– more communication or transparency

– more documentation

– a longer timeframe to complete OR

– a shorter timeframe (you might be lose a resource if it goes too long)

– agreement to measure results and modify later

It’s always better to prepare and plan so that no turbulence impacts the flight of your project. Remember the weather a good pilot experiences: blue skies, every trip (except night time, then it’s starry skies) – what a great way to fly. Try to make the visibility that good for your project.

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