How do I get involved in aviation?

Benefit from the aviation experience
Flight captain Bruno Dobler on automatisms in a crisis

Companies can derive significant benefits from aviation insights. Start every day, start with your project, the upcoming negotiation with the bank, with the employee appraisal, with the management meeting as if on a well-prepared flight.

If we want to fly captains, we assume that we will return safely from the third dimension. That means as much as that we have to come to the firm conviction that the preparations for a successful start are seamless and that a safe arrival is guaranteed. Every single day is suitable for training. I therefore recommend making a flight every day right at the beginning. That is obvious anyway, because everyone is a captain of his life. Every pilot knows: he is always the first to hit the scene of the accident. That is what is brutally obligatory when the third dimension meets its end. There are no more excuses like "Time was short"; "Meier was to blame"; “We were unlucky; the team didn't work ”or“ mistakes can still be made ”.

If you continue flying with me now, I will guide you through different phases of the flight or the company. Our flight goes from planning and preparation to shredding complexity and flying over control with confidence. Then we turn to what I call optimization mania. I'll show you an important rule from aviation: Expect the Unexpected. Then we turn to finding a solution. Crises can arise on the flight, how do we master them and in the end it is about the benefits of maneuverability.

Plan or prepare

Planning and budgeting are great hobbyhorses of many, too many executives and are still among their favorite pastimes. This is the only way to justify the planning madness, which is still taking place in a similar manner to 70 years ago. A glance at what is happening right now - Corona and Lockdown - is enough to see that the plan and budget are quickly becoming obsolete. With or without Corona, hand on heart, the first deviations from the budget will be apparent from February 15. The expenses are still exactly on target, but the income side is stuttering alarmingly and the incoming orders show a bleak picture. After only 45 days of the year, all that remains of the detailed budget is a little bit of misery. It was better last year. The plan was exceeded. Yes and? It wasn't useful either. This clearly shows that the effort involved in the plan can never justify its “inaccuracy”. Even more: The urge to have an exact plan harms the crew spirit and hinders the flexibility to arrive better and more successfully in the future. Therefore, entrepreneurs should put an end to the good intentions and hoped for collateral through the plan. There is no more than a prison for false beliefs.

Role model pilot

Do like the pilot. Instead of planning the details, prepare yourself seriously and consider alternatives in all directions with alternatives and with reserves. Take into account strong cross winds and turbulence, especially where they are not entered on the weather map. In the case of companies, the turbulence may be the existing and new competitors or the suppliers who, despite contracts, do not always want the way you want them to. It doesn't do any harm to include phantom competitors and other troublemakers in your preparation. Pilots know that even with the best weather forecasts, the later topicality can be completely different. At the destination airport, a power failure can make landing impossible or the planned and most economical flight altitude in terms of fuel cannot be used per se. What the fuel is in the airplane, the liquidity means in the company. The objection to budgeting and planning may be that the bank or the supervisory board want a budget. All right, instead of long discussions, deliver. You are using the pile of paper from last year. Very important: Don't forget to change the title and date to the new year.

Shredding complexity

So we have now left the budget mania behind us. We are now using the time gained to reduce complexity. There is an Eldorado of possibilities in every company. It's not that simple, do you think? Now, before going through the options listed, I would ask you to promise me that you will not shoot the proposals into interstellar orbit immediately. I Agree? So let's get started with the measures:

  • Reduction of the scope of the weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual reports by half! For the very brave, I recommend a 75 percent cut. Attention, do not forget to assign the reports that exist in the individual business areas synchronously with the halving.
  • Halving the hierarchies. Yes, cut it in half! So with seven levels down to four, better to three hierarchy levels. You don't dare and want to let it happen in stages? Ok, that's possible, if not quite as well as all at once, but still. In comparison: two hierarchical levels are sufficient to operate a 200 million aircraft.
  • Consequences: The employees on the lowest levels with customer contact must now be equipped with competencies. For the end customer, there is hardly anything more pleasant than getting in contact with employees who are happy to make suggestions and make decisions on site without the "administration" having to prove its existence. The example of this from aviation: The flight attendants make decisions in the "operational business" quickly and, above all, alone with often disarming self-confidence directly with the passenger. A real pleasure that will soon return to your company.

Trust takes precedence over control

Now the employees are challenged because they decide now. This is new to many. Training helps. Mutual trust is crucial for success. Therefore, dismantle controls and remember: with the right people, things run smoothly. Employees who receive trust outgrow themselves. You stay in the company and want to build your career there. The shortage of skilled workers is a thing of the past. In aviation, trust in one another is essential. The captain must be able to rely on each of his crew.

Optimize to the grave

The higher an airplane climbs, the thinner the air and the lower the frictional resistance. The kerosene consumption decreases. The higher the plane climbs, the faster it has to fly to get the lift it needs to stay in the air. This goes on until the maximum permissible speed and the minimum speed kiss at a certain altitude. In economic terms, this altitude and this speed mean the highest level of efficiency, namely the lowest fuel consumption and the shortest flight time. The ideal situation for every CFO. But kissing at this efficient point is very tricky. The aircraft is in a very dangerous place at this totally optimized point. If the aircraft gets just a little faster or a little slower here, it can either be damaged or stall. Both lead to a very dangerous flight condition. We pilots call this the "Coffin Corner" - the coffin corner. And the expression already promises it. It'll be difficult to get out alive.

No company has control over developments that are happening anywhere in the world. Far away from the home company headquarters, the long-standing supplier can develop splendidly only to suddenly appear as a competitor on the world market. Our economy and with it the companies have reached the top. Here, too, the air has become thinner and thinner, the risks have increased disproportionately and are still increasing. The optimizations of recent years have led to higher profits, lower production costs, more attractive taxes, fewer jobs in one place and, conversely, more jobs in another, cheaper place. The “just-in-time” euphoria eliminated warehouses and domestic suppliers. Globalization produces on time under the most favorable conditions. Everything is fine. Everything is under control. A mechanism that works phenomenally. The sun shines on the able. Also on our pilot?

As soon as the pilot thinks or believes that he has everything under control, it becomes extremely dangerous. But he knows that. He had to make this experience several times during his training as a pilot. He learned from that. And he knows that when he moves at 850 km per hour, a lot all around changes quickly. In order to be able to react, it becomes important that sufficient reserves and security are available in order to be able to evade in the event of an emergency, to avoid turbulence, to endure technical breakdowns with the sole aim of arriving safely.

Expect the unexpected

Now, with Corona, the crisis is breaking across the world. All the beautiful falls apart from one day to the next. Corona is the "coffin corner" for the global economy. Supply chains are interrupted, productions are at a standstill, short-time work for many companies and employees, more and more unemployed people and the states are getting into debt. Entrepreneurs, employees, states, people stare in disbelief at what is happening around them or, more appropriately, what is no longer happening. The past few weeks have impressively shown what a black swan is. And if we think about it, we are now paying the price for optimizing down to the last crack in the absence of security buffers. With this starting position, other times will probably begin for all of us. We should allow the new framework conditions and the changes to flow into our deliberations and decisions, both professionally and privately, if it is a matter of arriving safely.

Corona is the black swan, the unexpected, the crisis. How do we find solutions, how does the crew cope with crises. First it needs total attention. Imagine both pilots are busy using their cell phones. One watches YouTube films, the other reads his SMS. What are you thinking about? Would you want to fly with this crew again? Change of scene: How many employees in the administrative area are always on their toes and check their cell phones? Does that bother you? Keeping yourself ready is by no means what is tolerable in the cockpit. The distractions are too big. Depending on the content, emotions suddenly come into play, which increase the distractions. Valuable time passes by until someone is back in the loop. In the case of the pilots, a respectable air distance would also be covered. At 850 km per hour, the plane covers a distance of 2360 meters in ten seconds. In earth-based operations, a huge fortune is gambled away in the administration every year through such distractions. This adds up to well over a hundred completely incorrectly used working hours per year and employee. Optimal performance, especially in crises, requires the least possible distraction. To be ready means to be ready with all your senses. Only in such a state can a situation be judged. Every second that is missing could be one too many. And yes, that takes discipline. These are also the expectations of the passenger. What does that mean for your work environment? What benefits and insights do you draw from it?

find solutions

To find solutions to the current crisis, just like the captains, use the checklist. Do this alone or with your team using the D-O-B-L-E-R checklist. Be sure to write down the findings on the individual points:

D - determine the difference

O - List options

B - Evaluate the options

Determine L - solution from this

E - implement result

R - Check the result and return to D until you have your Eureka.

Wheat is separated from the chaff during a crisis

"A crisis is a situation for a company in which it can suffer great damage if it does not react quickly and effectively enough." Only we do not like to talk about crises or only when they are there and we are forced to do so. But repressing is not a solution. Just by talking about it, prevention is already under way. That's the good thing about it. Pilots and flight attendants systematically prepare for abnormal and emergency situations. This is also practiced over and over again in the simulator. In a crisis, automatisms have to take effect; this is the only way to keep blood calm. The aircraft is at an altitude of 12,000 meters at 870 km / h. The copilot has just ordered a coffee. And as if out of nowhere there is a piercing shrill in the cockpit: Fire warning! Fire on the left engine! Great danger! The pulse rises immediately. Captain and copilot look at each other. Fire is one of the greatest dangers on board. Everything must be done without delay to extinguish the fire. What are we going to do? What would you do? Right away?

And this is happening now: so-called "by-heart items", the necessary and trained actions are worked through by heart and in consultation with the colleague. In this case, this means cutting off the fuel and oil supply to the engine and activating the fire extinguisher. This is the small beginning. But before we go any further, something very important is happening. The pilots share the work and responsibilities. Specifically: who flies the aircraft, who works through the checklist, who communicates with the ground control center, who informs the cabin. All actions are mutually checked. Both pilots are always on the same level of information.

This is exactly how it should ideally work in earth-based companies. As soon as a crisis is identified, the “Crisis Management” program starts. These processes are known to the management body and have also been trained. It is also clearly determined who is in charge of day-to-day business and who is responsible for it. I recommend that you record the conditions for your company that must be met in order to describe a situation as a crisis. You define the relevant responsibilities in the crisis organization manual. In addition to many others, this also includes internal and external communication. And never forget: Expect the Unexpectet.

Use of maneuverability

From my experience I know that the entrepreneur uses his options to make decisions and is aware of the great responsibility for his employees and for their families. It now takes the courage to take advantage of the agility of smaller companies. In this difficult situation, you have the advantage of an ultralight aircraft and do not have to navigate the clumsy A380. With the right preparation and a well-rehearsed crew, you can master even the most difficult situations with confidence and even emerge stronger from the situation. Maneuverability also means doing less, but doing it better. The big books don't do the job. The simple, well-arranged and clear checklists and a few prepared action plans form the basis for the agility and success of getting out of the crisis quickly. You can do it!

To person

Bruno Dobler is a flight captain with over 10,000 flight hours, flight instructor, chief pilot at Crossair, today Swiss, CEO of Helvetic Airways, founder / CEO of the "Horizon Swiss Flight Academy", member of the board of directors of Zürcher Kantonalbank, the fourth-largest bank in Switzerland. He is also a board member of CRO-Counsel AG, Exec. MBA and global negotiator, University of St. Gallen, member of the Advisory Board of the University of Zurich, top-level coach and sparring partner for the ambitious.