By Tom Taylor
When I was being taught to drive a car or automobile I remember being told to: hold on to the steering wheel, firmly but not tightly, to use both hands and to place them at “ten to two”. I do remember the confusion when I might need to steer with only one hand – starting the engine, operating signals, changing gear, applying the handbrake, turning the radio on and off. Progressively these things became second nature.
But back then I particularly remember being instructed not to look at my hands on the steering wheel. Also not to look at the bonnet or hood of my vehicle; not to look at the rear of the vehicle in front; not to look sideways at activities on the pavements or sidewalks; but to look down the road – to the horizon. That way I would be able to drive smoothly, safely, with comfort and consideration for my passengers, for other road users and pedestrians, for my vehicle and for myself.
Is there an analogy here for driving being like project managing? Is the hands on the steering wheel akin to writing “To do” lists? Is the hood or the bonnet the next event or meeting? Is the vehicle in front the next stage-gate or gateway? Is looking down the road about strategies, outcomes, destinations or benefits? As in driving does one really need to have them all in view and be aware / awake – and at the same time?
Alternatively or similarly is it valid to compare a project to going on a journey? Does one need a suitable vehicle, all passengers on board, sufficient fuel, a destination and a route to get there – with some contingencies and capabilities to overcome difficulties, distractions and unknowns?
Are such driving and journey analogies interesting but rather old hat these days? Perhaps they might still be helpful for basic inductions – to the world of projects – and how they might be managed – as some familiar fundamental analogies? Perhaps. Or in board room conversations and explanations? Perhaps.
So here we are in 2017; only just over a century since development of modern internal combustion engine (and the early foundations of modern project management). Currently we are seeing: creditable electric vehicles and fuelling points have arrived; rent and hire rather than buy and keep are common; software controls in our vehicles and for managing traffic systems are in place; satellite navigation (as GPS) is standard, reliable and universal; and we are seeing advances and testing of artificial intelligence (AI) notably with driverless vehicles.
About the Author
Tom Taylor is from UK and is a principle of Dashdot, a joint founder of Buro Four and a vice-President of the Association for Project Management (APM). He is known as: a popular, confident and energetic speaker and broadcaster; a prolific author and publisher on innovative business and original management issues; an experienced and enthusiastic lecturer and course leader; and an award-winning, highly-experienced manager of projects, advisor and consultant. He passed his UK driving test at the second attempt.