Do you have the skills to lead a Project Pilot?

Project Pilots are exploratory, inevitably uncertain and purposefully investigative.They inform, adjust and refine the design solution or delivery approach for a main project or programme before full implementation. The aims of a pilot are to gain insight and to learn.

Here’s a handy check-list to run through before take-off.

  • Are the learning objectives for the pilot clear? All pilots need clear cost, time, performance and learning objectives.
  • Is there time post pilot to adjust the design or implementation approach before rolling out? If not, create a holding pattern to gain time, or abort.
  • Is the pilot representative? … Not so small that it misses vital interactions and behaviours. Not so large that it morphs into the full project.
  • Does the pilot leader have the right  attitude? …. brave, motivational, open-minded, with a can-do appetite to overcome unpredictable problems?
  • Beware leaders who are well-intentioned operational enthusiasts, lacking experience of managing projects that are characterised by uncertainty!
  • Does the budget include a decent (i.e. 30-50%) contingency allowance? There must be freedom to solve unexpected problems “mid-flight”.
  • Will the pilot’s Sponsor champion it, promote it and motivate others?
  • Know the difference between a pilot and a trial …. If you don’t, your pilot will become a trial in every sense of the word!

“You’ve got to expect things are going to go wrong. And we always need to prepare ourselves for handling the unexpected” — Neil Armstrong