Learning to fly is one of those things that I always thought about doing, but never got around to. It was definitely on the ‘to-do’ list, somewhere between taking the kids to Disney and cleaning out the garage. Luckily for me, we live in the age of Groupon. The one hour intro was just enough to get me hooked, and I couldn’t help but go back again and again.
Flying has given me a new perspective on how I describe the PMBoK process groups to people. The iterative nature is found much more naturally in flight, or even sea travel, than you could ever find on the ground. Think about when you’re driving a car, it’s almost entirely effortless and without any thought at all: plan where you are headed, start driving, and ensure that you stay in the lane and at a safe speed while obeying local traffic laws.
I flew around the world a half dozen times in the military, and probably logged at least a hundred thousand miles in the US alone. In all that time, I never really got over my fear of flying because I never really knew what the heck was going on. Turbulence. All I knew about that word was two things: it made me want another drink, and it scared the heck out of me. I’m not sure if those two were related, but what I do know is that it wasn’t until I started flying that I learned the causes of thermal turbulence, and realized that the nicest days to fly were always the bumpiest!
Driving in a straight line is relatively easy. For some people at least. Flying in a straight line can be a challenge, even in ideal conditions. Maintain level horizon, adjust trim, watch airspeed, adjust throttle . . . and just when everything is perfect, here comes a thermal layer that lifts the plane 200 feet in about 3 seconds. Time to put the nose down and reduce the throttle, regain proper altitude and level off.
That last paragraph just described, in order, preventive actions which were done in an effort to keep our plane on course at the speed and altitude of our choosing. However, something happened that messed up our plan, so we had to do a corrective action to get back on track. Flying and sailing are much like M&C. You often don’t have a clear reference as to your progress. Can you eyeball the difference between 3000 and 3500 feet of altitude? Probably not. Can you tell if you’re sailing in a straight line with no land on the horizon? I spent two months at sea, and I’ll tell you it’s not that easy! These situations necessitate deliberate actions to ensure that we stay on track and make progress at the rate and in the manner of how we had planned.
Plans change. The other day I was flying cross-country to another airport. My heading was roughly Northeast, but a wind out of a different angle than what the METAR called for really messed my morning up. Being blown consistently off course after having calculated for wind correction with inaccurate data (think risk data quality assessment!) meant that a new plan had to be developed. A few quick calculations on some iPad apps and a new course and timeline were developed.
Monitoring and Controlling processes happen throughout a project’s life cycle, much like how constant and deliberate effort is undertaken from taxi to take-off and landing. It’s always easy to drift off course, on a project or in a plane.