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7 Ways a Project Manager is like a Pilot | Video

7 Way a Project Manager is like a Pilot

It recently occurred to me that an airplane is rather like a Project, and its captain is like a Project Manager. Let me explain why the role of a Project Manager is rather like that of a pilot…

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This is learning, so, sit back and enjoy

Here are seven ways that the role of a Project Manager is rather like that of a pilot…

  1. Destination
    The captain pilots a lane to its destination, but is usually given this by the airline or the paying passengers. That destination is determined by the value, or benefits, which provide forward impulse. That’s just like a project, and the management of value and benefits is an important project management discipline.
  2. Lift
    An airplane has two wings to provide lift, and the pilot needs to adjust the airplane’s trim to maintain level flight. A project manager creates lift to their project with a plan and delivery successes. Both of these also need constant attention.
  3. Gravity
    The pilot and the plane are constantly fighting the downward pull of gravity. A Project Manager must deal with the risks and issues that cause setbacks and are ‘working’ to bring the project down. One way I like to think of project management is as a way to defy the gravity of chaos!
  4. Passengers
    A pilot is responsible for the safety and welfare of their passengers. As a Project Manager, you are responsible for how your project affects your stakeholders. Like a pilot, you need to communicate with them to let them know where they are going, how the flight is progressing, and when to buckle-up for turbulent stretches ahead.
  5. Crew
    To help her, a pilot has her crew. And you have your project team.
  6. Speed
    An airplane has engines to provide a boost in speed. As a Project Manager, you can boost speed by creating a sense of urgency on your project.
  7. Professionalism
    Finally, most people think of a pilot as a glamorous figure. In truth, pilots are professionals who need to maintain a lot of training and a high degree of discipline. They follow procedures and use checklists; because they work. This is especially true under the pressures pilots sometimes face.

In what other ways is a Project Manager like a pilot?

Do let me know if you think of anything else.

Learn More

For a more formal (standard) look at the roles of a Project Manager, take a look at our video: The Role of a Project Manager: Project Management Responsibilities
…and our article, Do You Understand the Role of the Project Manager?

And please do check out our fabulous Project Management Checklists resource.


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For more of our Project Management videos in themed collections, join our Free Academy of Project Management.

For more of our videos in themed collections, join our Free Academy of Project Management

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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