“*Ding* You are now free to move about the cabin.” – Airline Pilot

The favorite phrase of any regular traveler is, “You are now free to move about the cabin.” Phew! Finally! We’ve reached our “cruising altitude,” and the pilot feels like there are no bumps ahead. Now, we can take the opportunity to recline the seat into the passenger behind us, plop down the minuscule tray table, or make the mad dash to the restroom, only to be turned away because you can’t form a line at the front of the cabin.

Inevitably, the pilot turns the seatbelt sign on later in the flight due to turbulence or the pending approach to your destination. On some flights, the announcement comes within the first 15 minutes of taking off. Other times, the entire ride is bumpy, and the light never turns off. The worst is when you’ve finally reached the restroom, and the light comes on while you’re inside. Bumpy flights are not fun in the confines of a 3’x3′ restroom.

“Hey, Chris. I thought these Revolution posts were about engineering and projects, not flying.” Be patient. I’m getting there.

Projects and project management are a lot like a flight. The project is kicked off. Things are a little bumpy as the team works through some of the details, and slowly, the project smooths out, so we are all free to move about the completed building. There are always little bumps towards the finish with field changes or last-minute coordination items, but ideally, it’s a smooth landing to the grand opening.

But what happens when you hit bumps along the way? Or, worse yet, the entire project is bumpy. Well, get ready, folks. Because you have to keep your seatbelt fastened the entire way.

In the project management world, that means LOTS of communication—more than usual. Preferably, the communication is written to track what has been said in meetings, via email, and on phone calls. This written communication serves as a clear landing point that can be referred back to when discussing the issue in the future.

Also, more meetings are required to clarify the design or construction. We want to make sure we’re all moving towards the same destination. Again, these meetings need to be clear, concise, and documented (see above), with all parties agreeing to the decisions made.

Finally, finger-pointing should be avoided at all costs. It’s not the pilot, flight attendants, or passengers who made the flight bumpy. It’s just bumpy, nothing more, nothing less. Once established, the team can work together to bring the project to its final descent and land safely. When we realize the project’s ultimate goal is to have a satisfied owner with an occupiable building, we can all work together to put the wheels on the ground.

If the project team continues to over-communicate, keep clear and concise documentation, and avoid pointing fingers during turbulence, we can all land on the ground safely at our destination and avoid the dreaded “walk of shame” police escort off the plane. And those crazy FAA fines!