What I Learned About Performance Improvement from Nearly Crashing an Airplane

I hit the runway hard and the plane bounced! My heart pounded. I was gripped with fear as I considered what to do next.

It was my second solo flight and I had less than 20 hours of flight instruction. During my final approach for landing, I came to the realization that I was too high and that meant I would not land at the beginning of the runway. At best, I might land mid-field or even worse run out of runway during the landing.

My only thought was that I needed to lose altitude quickly and make sure I landed at the beginning of the runway. I pushed forward on the yoke, putting the plane into a steeper dive while increasing the speed of the plane. It was the wrong thing to do.

So what happened? Instead of gently touching down on the runway, the plane hit the runway hard and bounced! Now what?

Fortunately, my instructor had cautioned me what to do if I ever found myself in such a situation. If a plane bounces or balloons on landing, it usually doesn’t stop and only gets worse. The best response is to immediately apply full power, adjust the flaps and go around for another landing attempt. And that’s exactly what I did.

What goes through your mind during a heart-stopping experience like this?

For me, the most important thing was flying the airplane safely. While I was scared, I knew I couldn’t focus on my fears and had to focus on flying the airplane. I started saying to myself over and over again, “fly the airplane, fly the airplane.”

I think achieving performance improvement results requires a similar disciplined focus on what’s most important.

Over the past eighteen months, I interviewed 26 experts in a quest to uncover the best strategies that are being used by organizations and top consultants to achieve real performance results.

While none of the strategies are exactly the same, I have started to identify several common themes.

Improve for the Right Reasons

One common message that I have taken from reading and analyzing all the interviews is that top experts are helping organizations improve for the right reasons.

I think of the reasons organizations decide to make improvements as existing on a scale. On the left are organizations that are happy with the status quo and on the far right of the scale are organizations that want to change the world.

In between are all the other factors that influence an organization to change. Some organizations decide to make a change because it’s the latest “silver bullet” they heard about at a conference or maybe from a colleague. Others decide to undertake an improvement effort to achieve a rating or because they need to be in compliance with requirements set by an outside governing body.

Still others want to solve a specific problem or perhaps competition may be forcing management to make changes to keep up or stay ahead in the marketplace.

Then there are those organizations that are focused on being a great company or have a vision to change the world. They are engaged in making improvements because they want to be the best and delight their customers.

Whatever the reasons, it is my observation that many industry experts do things that help organizations move further to the right on the scale of Improve for the Right Reasons.

I believe the further to the right your organization is on the Improve for the Right Reasons scale, the more successful your organization is likely to be with performance improvement.

Do you agree? Where is your organization on this scale?

If you’d like to learn more about how top experts help organizations make improvements for the right reasons, go to the 5 Minutes to Process Improvement Success website where you can read all of the interviews at http://5minutespisuccess.com

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