Distraction. It can kill a profitable business.
Why? As fragile human beings with limited attention spans, we get easily distracted by our past success and the bright shiny object on the path ahead. Sometimes that bright shiny object is actually on a management “dashboard”.
Distraction can also kill people. On December 29 1972, Eastern Airlines Flight 401 crashed into the Florida everglades killing 101 people. Pilot error (management distraction) was the cause of this crash. No one was flying the plane for almost 5 minutes as the 3 pilots were focused on a single malfunctioning instrument panel light.
The final NTSB report cited the cause of the crash as pilot error, specifically: “the failure of the flight crew to monitor the flight instruments during the final four minutes of flight…”
After the accident, the NTSB recommended improved placement (and training) for landing gear indicator lights and many airlines started crew resource management training for their pilots designed to minimize cockpit distraction. In other words, do less better.
We were reminded of this disaster and its lessons when we read a recent New York Times business story about the Netflix turnaround Netflix Looks Back on Its Near-Death Spiral in which founder and chief executive Reed Hastings talked about his mistakes, management distraction, and what it originally took to win against Blockbuster.
Said Mr. Hastings, “The reason we won is because we improved our everyday service of shipping and delivering. That experience grounded us. Executing better on the core mission is the way to win.”
In other words, fly the plane.
The American business landscape is littered with the unnecessary wreckage of so many good companies, wasted capital, and good people all due to smart people who get distracted bright shiny objects and c-suite ego.
NetFlix survived but others are not so lucky.
If you haven’t already, define, execute and obsessively track your fundamentals — every minute of every business day — because businesses (and planes) don’t operate themselves.
To get you started, here are 20 tenets of doing less better from author John Bell.