Microburst. A word I have heard used to describe the phenomenon of rushes of soap globules to get our skin clean. But in the airport today, the word microburst was used to delay my flight. The Denver area was experiencing wind microbursts. A microburst’s movement consists of a small down draft with movement opposite of a tornado. There can be dry microbursts or wet microbursts and in this case, it was a dry microburst. A microburst is especially dangerous when landing aircraft because of the wind shear. The difficulty with microbursts is they can last between a few seconds to several minutes. The high winds from a microburst have enough force to topple over fully grown trees.
Like hundreds of other flights through the Denver International Airport that day, my flights were disrupted. But when it comes to this sort of danger, I would much rather be delayed than be in a plane crash. My flight to Denver was delayed by 2.5 hours – long enough that I misconnected on my original flight to Milwaukee. Once my flight did take off for Denver, the landing was one of the roughest I had ever experienced in all my years of flying. The back-up flight I was placed on was also delayed to depart for Chicago, which would create yet another misconnection for me in Chicago. Thus, I made the decision to fly to Madison, WI and rent a car to drive to Milwaukee.
As I was going through this experience I couldn’t stop comparing the microburst to some of the projects I have worked on and projects that some of my students share with me in classes I instruct. Our project microbursts could include defects, scope creep, team infighting, or even irate stakeholders – depending on the wind shear. Ironically, project microbursts can also last from a few seconds to several minutes, but unlike dry microbursts, project microbursts can continue for hours or days. Those microbursts could lead to troubled projects that deliver late, over budget, or with scope issues. But does that mean the project failed? Or was that microburst a hidden piece of good fortune because it led to greater stakeholder satisfaction?
I think it’s how we choose to respond to these microbursts that makes all the difference. We can choose to get upset and add more momentum to the microburst or we can choose to approach the microburst with problem solving. In my travel situation, I chose not to get mad. Instead I went into problem solving mode and thus I made it to my final destination delayed, but safe. In the airports, I saw others who were getting angry, and that wasn’t improving the wind microburst disruption. Next time you encounter a project microburst, consider the fact that it could be a good thing for the health and vitality of your project. During the delay, I was able to make a new contact with a frequent traveler at my base airport. And just like how my flight ended, isn’t that what we all want for our projects – to arrive at the end safe and sound with satisfied stakeholders?