Ignoring The Warning Signs

warning sign

Note: This posting is based on my weekly “Thank God It’s Monday” that helps you and your company thrive!

This week’s focus: ignoring the warning signs

  • Air France Flight 447 crashed off the coast of Brazil after it stalled (lost lift and forward speed) and dropped from an altitude of 30,000+ feet to the ocean’s surface. Audible stall warnings were ignored by the flight crew. They thought the alarms were in error. They weren’t.
  • Asiana Flight 214 crashed when the crew failed to realize that airspeed had dropped to levels that caused the plane to stall resulting in the plane’s tail colliding with the seawall on approach. Two critical things to monitor for landing are altitude and airspeed. When both values are too low, the ability to make corrections vanish.
  • The recent Spanish train crash that killed 80 people occurred after the train’s engineer received 3 warnings that he was going too fast in the 2 minutes prior prior to the train derailing. He was traveling more than twice the speed limit. The train’s engineer was distracted talking on the phone.

“Set it and forget it” doesn’t work at critical points in a process. Industry experts describe the inability of these crews to respond appropriately as “automation complacency,” a situation where those in charge overly rely on instruments and computer controls to do things automatically so the person at the controls doesn’t have to worry about it or attend to it.

All this makes me wonder about business owners being on auto-pilot and not sensing trouble ahead. It’s easy to assume that procedures and controls are operating normally and, as a consequence, little is done to confirm that things are as they are supposed to be–until it is often too late.

As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” This axiom will help you and your company thrive.

Thought for the week:

 “Failure doesn’t matter. You only have to be right once.” — Dropbox CEO Drew Houston
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What do you think? I welcome your comments!

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

© 2013 Gardner & Associates Consulting  All Rights Reserved

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2 Responses to Ignoring The Warning Signs

  1. Ron Ferrll says:

    While I agree with your thinking, there is another group who must be held accountable in businesses: the boards of directors. The management leadership is execution based, and the top management should be creating strategy that the board of directors approves and gives back to management for execution. From my perspective and experience, the boards in large corporation not only do not check on how the execution of approved strategies is going, but they don’t even have a process or plan for doing so. Worse yet, they seem to be pretty lazy and self-serving. Hmmm…. gotta share this with some boards of companies I hold equity positions in.


  2. Dave says:

    Ron…agree boards have been a problem in recent years, e.g., Yahoo, HP, to name a few in the tech sector. Boards tend to look at execution by the numbers and assume if the numbers are good, everything else must be fine. Great perspective as always.


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