Listen to What You Cannot See

PMI United Kingdom Chapter

Ian Whittingham, PMP is a Program Manager in the Business Transformation group of a leading global news and information company. The views expressed here are his own. You may contact the author directly at

Topics: Knowledge Management, New Practitioners

Stop. Look. Listen. A formula for safety, learned as an infant, when crossing the road. But that three-step process is almost a life lesson in itself, one that any project manager, whether seasoned or novice, can learn from. At its heart is a simple but important imperative: “Pay attention! Your safety depends on it.

Life is full of events that may endanger us. Projects, as a part of (our) life, are no different. But those dangers--or risks, as project managers call them--may not be as easy to detect as the ones lurking unseen around street corners when crossing the road. But we can become aware of their presence if we listen for them with the right kind of attentiveness.

Be more attentive
Arrest. Gather. Focus. Whoever formulated the Stop-Look-Listen mantra for crossing the road understood the fundamental aspects of human cognition, of how we take in sensory data and turn it into information we can then use to make decisions in risky environments.

Stop. The first step prepares us by arresting our attention. We must stop whatever we are doing and attend to the present moment. The act of stopping is a demarcation, a conscious action that detaches us from the distraction of current preoccupation. It primes us for the next step.

Look. This is the process of gathering information, information we will use to arrive at a decision and determine whether to …

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"Familiarity breeds contempt -- and children."

- Mark Twain