Being Thankful

by Glenn J. Thomas

Ask most people the first thing that comes to mind when you say “November” and they will say “Thanksgiving” (although some food network viewers might say “Turkey’).

Travel back in time with me a few hundred years and imagine how differently things might have been if the planning for the voyages of the Mayflower had employed a project manager.

“Our SCHEDULE shows that we will be arriving in the New World in early fall and I want everyone to be aware that I think this greatly increases our RISK of success. There are a number of scenarios that could result in delays, thereby postponing our arrival until mid-winter. I’d like to propose a CHANGE CONTROL that would have us arriving in late spring. The weather will be much more tolerable, food stores won’t have to last as long and the likelihood of losing half of the PROJECT TEAM to weather and disease drops significantly. Merchant Adventurers, as the project SPONSORS, I’ll need you to sign this change request. After that I’ll COMMUNICATE the change to all of the STAKEHOLDERS, including John Robinson, William Brewster, William Bradford, and Myles Standish. Thanks for all of your cooperation. We’ll reestablish the PLANNING team in about 4 months.”

As with most projects, things back then didn’t exactly go according to the plan. The Mayflower did experience several unplanned delays and instead of finding their intended goal at the mouth of the Hudson River, they landed some two hundred plus miles East on the Massachusetts coast in mid-November and the rest, as they say, is history.

When you look back upon your own repertoire of projects, I’m sure there are many things that knowing what you know now, you would have changed then. The key thing to remember is that each of those projects provided you with valuable experience that helped make you into the individual you are today.

I remember a particular project, in the early days of my military career that had me working in a barren stretch of desert beside a military airstrip somewhere in central Somalia for the day. Our research required us to monitor a variety of heat index equipment until sundown and then catch the last flight of the day back to our base camp outside of Cairo, Egypt. Sometime in the mid-afternoon the tower officer strolled over and calmly said, “See that plane warming up over there? It’s the last flight out today because everything else has been cancelled. It’s leaving in 5 minutes with or without you.” With the thought of sleeping on bare sand racing through my head, it’s amazing what can be accomplished in 5 minutes. Our small team packed up our gear and made the flight and I learned a valuable lesson that I keep in my back pocket to this day: Just because you think everything is okay doesn’t mean it actually is!

This year, when you sit down to your traditional Thanksgiving feast, take a moment to remember the folks of Plymouth Colony, and all those that have been a part of the many projects you have been involved with over the years and say a little ‘thank you’ to each of them for all the knowledge they have helped you acquire during your career.

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Glenn Thomas

Glenn has more than 20 years of experience as a programmer, analyst, and project manager on systems development projects and research missions around the globe. The past 10 years have been spent serving in a variety of leadership roles in the application development, data and enterprise policy and standards arenas. His background includes time spent in the US military, private industry, and the public sector. Glenn is a Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP – DIQ), a Certified Public Manager (CPM), and a Project Management Professional (PMP). Glenn was the recipient of the 2009 DAMA International Government Achievement Award and is a former President and VP of Communications for the Project Management Institute’s Kentucky Bluegrass Chapter. 

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