How to Land a 747

Do you know what it takes to land a 747 safely?

If you were asked to step into the pilot seat, could you land the plane?

What if I upped the stakes and asked you to land the 747 on a small dirt runway? Could you do it? I bet Sully Sulenberger could. He is probably the only one. If he can land a 737 in a river, then a dirt runway should be just fine.

Realistically, it is not possible to land a huge plane that weighs thousands of tons on a small dirt runway. The plane was designed for a concrete runway with lots of space. If the pilot suggested it, you would think he was insane.

While this example seems absurd and something you would only hear about in an emergency situation, we do something very similar to this every time we work on a project. We fail to give our projects the opportunity they need to succeed.

Landing a plane is similar to launching a project. Not all are created equal. Some require more time, resources, and expertise. Where I get frustrated is when I try to land a 747 project with resources better suited for a single engine Cessna.

Here are three areas to think about the next time you are working on a project or landing a plane:


Just like a pilot has a flight plan before they take off, you need a well thought out strategy for how you will see this project through to completion. Make sure you factor in time and resources to adequately plan for the journey ahead.

Know the size of the project. Plan accordingly. You have the collective skills and resources to complete the project, but they may not be here today. Do you need a copilot to help with the heavy lifting? What specialists do you need to take care of the passengers on the plane so you can concentrate on flying the plane? Do you trust your team?


Do not set yourself up for failure. Make sure you give yourself the opportunity for success to happen. To land a 747, you need the opportunity. It is impossible to make a game winning shot if you never put on the uniform. Likewise, you can't land the plane if you aren't sitting in the pilot seat.


If you have a small project, the resources need to align with the project. If you have a big project or idea, you need to align the resources to match. If you are not realistic in the amount of time, money, people, etc it will take to accomplish the project, it will fail. The only question is how it will fail.

The next time you start a project, think about what you need to make success possible. What is the length of runway needed to launch the project, make the right decision, or build the relationship with the client? If you understand the length of the runway, you will be better prepared to act and plan accordingly. Don't try to land a 747 on a dirt runway, only to be shocked when it crashes.

Bryan Clifton

Oklahoma City, OK