Two Quick Thoughts: Success Checkpoints!

Posted by Charley Hughes on Jul 1, 2014 12:15 PM


The weather looks great for this weekend, so my wife Amy and I will ‘slip the surly bonds of earth’ in a small private airplane for a summer holiday visit with family a few hundred miles to our south.   And though we will arrive at the same destination, at the same time, in the same aircraft, if you ask each of us about our trip you will find we’ve taken two very different journeys to get there.

For me as a pilot, the journey is about how technical planning and preparation compares to actual performance.   How well did I hold my desired altitude?  How crisp and concise were my communications with each of the Air Traffic Controllers?  And most importantly, did I always know what would happen two Charley_Amy_Cockpit_Photosteps ahead of the airplane?   At 150 M.P.H. and more than a mile in the air, “winging it” just doesn’t work very well, so lots of pre-flight planning takes place on the ground before each trip.  This is important because solid preplanned execution impacts how Amy will perceive the success of our flight from the co-pilot seat.

Amy defines success not based on planning vs performance but rather thru the lens of her expectation versus the outcome.   She’s happy to leave the preflight planning to me and has no interest in talking with Air Traffic Controllers who seem to speak a foreign language at the speed of an auctioneer.   But don’t let her fool you, she’s a savvy map reader and knows where we are at all times. 

Like many of the clients Remedi serves, Amy is destination focused, and knows how to track our progress on the map, even though she’s not a pilot.   Her definition of success is a safe arrival at the planned destination airport, and having any unforeseen surprises, like a change in weather or a mechanical issue (more on this in a minute), dealt with swiftly and confidently.

Since Amy has always been my most important passenger, understanding her expectation is critical to our success.   She expects that I will take our safety seriously by inspecting every bolt and cable before we launch.    She also expects that I will inform her of what is about to happen during each phase of flight, such as takeoffs, turns, cruise, descent and landing.  Lastly she expects and trusts I will sincerely listen to her and act accordingly should anything about a flight make her uncomfortable or require explanation.

So, what bearing does all this have on your EDI projects that are “in-flight” or about to takeoff?     Do you know what success looks like thru your client’s eyes?    And, how do their definitions of success differ from your own?  

Did you preplan checkpoints along your flight-path to success?  And, have you communicated those to your client so they can identify them with you as each one is passed?   Even in the age of onboard GPS systems, when Amy and I identify preselected checkpoints along the way (rivers, lakes, large cities, railroad tracks, and highways) the flight always goes more smoothly.  This is because much less energy is expended trying to figure out where we are, and is available to focus on where we’re headed instead.

Oops!  Plan B

But, what about those times when things don’t go exactly as planned.   As a brief example, during one bitterly cold night flight from Kentucky back to Ohio our airplane’s directional indicator (our in dash compass) completely failed.   I immediately switched over to my backup instrumentation to keep us on our preplanned course.  My next step was explaining to Amy what was going on, what it meant for us, and what I was doing about it.  

Fortunately we were flying on a clear night, under a gorgeous full moon, and could make out our destination from well over 100 miles away.   Seeing the lights of our hometown even from such a distance gave us both confidence in the safe and successful outcome of our mission that night.  Do you have a plan for communicating and dealing with project surprises in a way that assures your client their expectation of a successful arrival will still be met?

Please prepare for landing.
Charley_Amy_Runway_KLEX_Photo

While I love to fly for the art of flying itself, Amy enjoys flying for its scenic means of speedy travel to a desired destination.  That means when we get to the destination, (unfortunately for me) it’s time to land.  

Which begs one final question. Do you have a plan for disengagement that leaves your client empowered to continue forward?    You would be surprised how many ‘hostage rescue’ missions I have participated in over the years because some other consultant refuses to share knowledge, empower client staff, or turn over a solution. 

Remedi gets invited back by our clients because we understand that it is their perception of success that matters most.  And, a client cannot ask you to takeoff on a new adventure, if you haven’t brought the first one in for a smooth landing yet.

Good luck with your preflight planning and have a safe and successful summer!

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