14.1. Flying ahead of the plane

Piloting large, dangerous objects requires more than a steady hand. The larger the thing you're steering, and the more people involved in it, the more inertia it has. Like project management, novices at piloting large machines (cars, planes, aircraft carriers, etc.) underestimate the time it takes for changes at the helm to be reflected in the behavior of the thing they are steering. As shown in Figure 14-1, the trajectory of large vehicles, or projects, changes significantly depending on how much momentum or other forces are involved. Most people, especially the inexperienced, fail to set their expectations properly for the results of their actions. Often this is because they don't understand all of the forces that contribute to the dynamics of the thing they're operating. Like someone learning to drive who skids out in the snow for the first time, there are too many unexplained forces interacting for her to stay in control.

When people who are supposed to be in control lose control, their common response is to panic. They might not admit this (people in panic mode rarely admit they are panicking), but it's true. The first response is usually to take a bold corrective action in direct response to the problem. But since they don't really understand all of the forces, this corrective action will typically be much too strong (see Figure 14-2). By the time they realize what they've done, another corrective action is needed, which they perform immediately. ...

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