Just a detail …

By Guy Higgins

I recently read a post by Dr. Bob Chandler about an airline crash that killed 91 people in South America. This article will “pile on” Dr. Chandler’s article to place emphasis on the importance of plans and checklists.

The aviation community in general, and the airplane pilots of the crashed airliner in particular, were guilty of a common human failing – not paying attention to the details. They took off without enough fuel to travel to their destination. For you non-aviators out there, a pilot ALWAYS makes sure that the aircraft has at least the minimum fuel required. Specifically, that is the fuel needed under forecast weather conditions to arrive at your destination – plus the fuel needed to conduct the expected approach and landing – plus the fuel needed to fly to an alternative destination (if forecast weather at your destination is such that you must have an alternate destination) – plus the fuel required for an extra ten minutes of flight. The pilots took off without even having the fuel needed to fly to their destination. Continue reading

Left of X – Reprise

By Guy Higgins

At a recent meeting of the Colorado Preparedness Advisory Council, I mentioned that I had posted on “Left of X.” The council chairwoman observed that, “We call than left of boom.” Well, that got me to thinking. It really isn’t left of boom.

X is when something “starts” that will result in boom (that would be bad things happening). There is an interval between X and boom – and that interval needs to be considered. In my original post on Left of X, I emphasized the importance of being prepared and able to act before the archer shoots the arrow (Left of X), but I also mentioned that it remains important to be able to “shoot the arrow.” That’s right of X but left of boom. Granted, there may not be too much time between the two. Continue reading

Left of “X”

By Guy Higgins

A long time ago, in the old days, when I was actively involved in considering things like ship defense systems, we would talk about the two options that existed to respond to an attack. You could “shoot the arrow,” or you could “shoot the archer.” In general, shooting the arrow is a hard thing – they’re small, hard to see and they move fast. Archers, on the other hand are easier to see, slower and easier to hit. The problem, of course is that you don’t always know if the archer is a bad guy until it’s too late and you wind up having to shoot the arrow. Continue reading

The Winter Solstice

By Guy Higgins

Today is the winter solstice – the “shortest day of the year.” That got me to thinking. We (that would be human beings) seem to feel compelled to get things finished by the end of the day, the week, the month, the quarter, the year – whatever time period we’re approaching. So, here we are coming to the end of all of those, and it’s the shortest day of the year (okay, so it’s only the shortest period of daylight – and only for the northern hemisphere, but I want to make a point). Continue reading

Metrics – Heterogeneous or Homogeneous?

By Guy Higgins

Last week, I posted about the importance of developing metrics that would permit the tracking of progress toward a strategic goal. This week, I want to follow up on that by looking at whether metrics should be consistent throughout an organization or whether different departments and different levels of the organization could or should have different metrics. After all, the overall organization has a strategic goal, and I claimed, last week, that metrics should support tracking progress toward that strategic goal. Does that not imply that metrics should be consistent throughout the organization? I don’t think so. Continue reading

The Lateral Arabesque

By Guy Higgins

Last week, I wrote about the Peter Principle – the tendency of a company to promote people to their level of incompetence.  A derivative of that tendency is the Lateral Arabesque – the tendency for leaders to move a person into a different job, one in which their poor performance will have less impact on the organization.  The Lateral Arabesque is an alternative to demotion or expending time and resources on training while retaining that person in that position.  I suspect that we have all seen this happen at least once, and I suspect that none of us think that it’s a good idea.  So, why does it happen?  Presumably, our leaders are smart people.  In fact, most of the leaders for whom I have worked were not only very smart, but had extensive experience and knowledge.

It seems to me that, simply, there are two cases that explain incompetence in a formerly highly competent person.  The first is that the job simply exceeds the abilities of a person.  He may have been fully capable in previous jobs but is now facing problems for which he is unprepared, either by virtue of temperament or knowledge/skillset.  The second is that the person is “mal-performing.”  I define this as: a person with the right temperament and knowledge/skillset who recognizes that she is under-performing but consistently refuses to seek or accept help/guidance.  I suspect that this is much the rarer case. Continue reading

Dealing with Disabilities

By Guy Higgins

I’m currently (heroically) suffering through a temporary disability.  About two weeks ago, I had surgery to fix a depressing number of problems with my right shoulder.  I had an excellent surgeon who fixed everything, and I have now started physical therapy.

So, back to the thread of this post – since I’m right handed and I cannot, yet, move my right arm above the elbow (in fact, I wear a sling about half the time to rest my arm and keep me from being stupid), I have to do a significant number of things with my left arm and hand.  I am amazed at how hard that is.  I am utterly incompetent with my left hand, and I don’t feel like I’m getting any more competent.  So I started thinking about people who have to cope with permanent disabilities. Continue reading

Plans or Planning: Where’s the Value?

By Guy Higgins

“He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”  That bit of wisdom is attributed to Sir Winston Churchill during World War II.  A generation (or so) before Sir Winston uttered these words, Graf Albert von Schlieffen, is reputed to have invested years in his plan for defeating France and to have died emphasizing the importance of adhering to “The Plan.”  Seems like folks think plans are important – and I agree with them.  Without a plan, you are most likely reduced to “hip shooting” to achieve your goals, and that’s not conducive to success.  I’ve said for a long time that without a plan, you have no idea of how lost you are.  Companies have business plans, coaches have game plans, and politicians have campaign plans.  Even couples have plans for Friday night.

Carl von Clausewitz (and Helmut von Moltke, the elder) are credited with saying, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  So what’s going on?  What do these (reasonably) smart guys mean?  Am I right that plans are important?  How can that be if they don’t last beyond first use (let’s substitute “real world” for enemy here).  Well, General Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing.  Planning is everything.”  Continue reading