I am in the Netherlands while writing this. We just had another airline scare which immediate created a Dutch ‘hero’, Jasper S., who together with other passengers avoided disaster by jumping on top of the terrorist. The same but more tragic happened during the PA flight September 11th flight. These are people who decided to risk all at the moment that it mattered most.
In our projects we are continuously confronted with risk we have to manage. We also need to make decisions after decision on how to proceed which involves taking risks and of course not knowing what lies ahead of us. When I teach the fundamentals of project management I hear a lot of times “oh, in our company, you cannot do that” or “I cannot challenge my customer, manager, or vendor”. For me the word “cannot” has three meanings: 1) I don’t know how to, 2) I don’t want to and 3) I don’t dare to. It is time to change our attitude.
As project managers it is our responsibility to think on our feet, evaluate the situation, make the decision and take the risk. I am not implying that we should be irresponsible. We should be decisive based on the information at hand. Not daring to take decisions because we don’t dare to take the risk could have a significant negative impact on our project. In the end, it is our responsibility.
If Jasper had decided that airline safety is not his responsibility, more than 300 people could have died. Theoretically it is not his responsibility. That is not what counts. What counts is that he took the risk and took action. We all have more ability and opportunity than our mind makes us think we have. Dare to cross your boundaries.