Misperceptions: Driving, Walking, and Managing Projects
I’ve been in the U.K. many times. I’ve walked and driven through most large cities and much of the countryside in England and Scotland, including London and Edinburgh.
For me as an American, driving “on the wrong side” is considerably easier and safer than walking.
If you’ve been there (or are British or Australian, say, and done the reverse), you understand. Otherwise, you may think I’m crazy.
But it works like this. When I’m driving, there are constant cues as to where I need to be — oncoming traffic and road signs, for example. Also, driving a car requires a certain amount of conscious focus even on familiar roads; in a keep-left world, I’m doubly conscious and aware.1 It also helps that the pedals are arranged in the same pattern (gas on the right, brake on the left).
But walking is rarely a conscious act for adults. We largely turn it over to the subconscious, along with activities such as breathing.2 My subconscious “knows” to look left as I approach a two-way street. Of course, in London or Sydney looking left won’t reveal oncoming traffic, leading to the reports every year about tourists hit by buses as they were crossing the street. In fact, a CEO I used to work for was saved in London from being flattened by an alert (local) pedestrian who yanked his shirt in the nick of time.
We all manage projects.
Not all of these projects are in our (direct) line of work. For example, consider that booking and carrying out a trip to London is a project:
- Initiation (do we really want to go? For how long?)
- Planning (decide on dates, hotel quality, and whether Stratford-upon-Avon is just too far for a day trip3)
- Execution (book tickets, find a hotel, decide if we want to take our chances on the day-of-show reduced-price ticket booth in Leicester Square)
- Delivery + Evaluation (throw out the water bottle at airport security, find Leicester Square, navigate the warrens of the British Museum, decide that the next vacation will not require air travel)
Project Management resembles driving on the “wrong” side far more than walking, yet too many people casually treat it as a walking tour.
I emphasize that conscious approach in my Legal Project Management classes. Be aware (mindful) of the critical aspects of managing the project — managing time, people, communication, tasks, and budget.
Focus on the large issues, the “oncoming cars” that provide a regular source of cues as to required and desired next steps. It’s actually easier than taking small step after small step. You’re focusing on the big picture, and you’re alert for the risks and problems that can have a big impact.
Like driving on the “wrong” side, it’s easier than it seems,4 once someone demystifies it a bit.