Preflight: The Importance of Preparation in Project Management
My teenage son has in his possession a driver's permit and is in the process of getting as much driving time as his Mom and Dad will allow. The other day I had set the parking (emergency) brake before I got out of the car to switch places with him so that he could drive. He got in the car and took off down the driveway, not realizing the parking brake was set. He very quickly was confused as to why the car behaved differently and why it was beeping at him. We had a discussion about checking the status of the car and the environment around the car before just taking off and going. Are there kids around? Are the seat and mirrors set correctly? Do the lights need to be on? Is the parking brake on?
This is even more important when flying because you cannot simply stop in the air to take care of something that you forgot about. You can't climb out and remove the red flag that says "REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT." You can't stop and ask directions if you get lost (it happens). The preflight is taught to all pilots and is VERY important.
It is also important with project management. It seems to be human nature for some (many?) pilots and project managers to launch right in. It is so important to take the time to be prepared. What are we actually doing? How do we know we are done? What are the capabilities that we must deliver? Do we have the time and people to deliver them?
Can we stop in the middle of the project and correct these things? Maybe, but at great cost in terms of time, lost opportunity, inefficiency, mistakes, rework, and credibility.
Here are some basic preflight questions a pilot needs to answer that are applicable to "preflighting a project":
- Where are we going and how are we going to get there?
- How much fuel (resources, $) will we need and how much contingency fuel should we carry?
- How will we measure our progress along the way? How will we know that we are still on route and that our fuel (resources, $) and time is still on track?
- Who do we need to communicate with (and how) along the way?
- What could hinder our progress? Is there weather at our origin, destination, or along the way that could hinder our progress?
- Am I personally ready? Am I fatigued / stressed / sick / overwhelmed? Do I have the experience needed for this project? Do I need to get help or mentorship?
- Is the aircraft (team, tools, processes) ready?
A preflight project checklist is a handy tool to make sure that you have not shortcutted key steps when launching a project.
Happy project piloting...