• Rob

Nothing Beats Simple Communication When The Pressure Is On!

When the pressure is on to deliver it is best to keep both the channel and messaging of communications as simple as possible. A great example of this is how military flyovers of Arlington Cemetery work.


As regular readers know, I was an F-14 pilot in the US Navy. Back when I was based in Oceana, Virginia Beach, VA I was lucky enough to be part of a 4-plane flight that was called to do a flyby of Arlington National Cemetery in the heart of Washington DC. The flyby is an integral part of the ceremony and during the playing of Taps by the bugler a flight of jets comes over. If done to perfection, during the song the 'missing man' plane pulls straight up out of the formation. Here is an example from the Blue Angels. The move for any military pilot is next to nothing from a flying perspective, but the timing is critical.


Doing this through the heart of Washington DC (a no-fly zone on any other day) and right past Washington Reagan International Airport, adds a level of complexity. The timing needs to be perfect as you have to hold miles away and only get one pass at it.


To manage this, there is a person on the ground with a walkie talkie (at least in 1994 when I did it) who is giving the 4 planes a running commentary on what is happening and time until they think Taps will be playing.


This is a high-pressure situation as 100’s of family and friends of the deceased are waiting to see this moment and, done right, will never forget it. Done wrong there is no place to hide as you fly 4 jets down the Potomac river!


Relating this to today's high stake business pressure, companies need to really simplify their communications. Communications channels are limited with face-to-face being nearly impossible. Leaders are faced with the challenge of keeping the company moving together in the right direction while being handicapped by ZOOM calls or emails to get the message across.


If we think about the person on the ground at Arlington as an analogy, we need to create a communications culture that allows employees to reach out quickly and efficiently to get the feedback from the front lines to the leadership team. As ZOOM becomes the norm, it is great to see how the medium of communications has become much more relaxed, authentic and spontaneous (I hope). This should help to speed up communication.


One thing that someone mentioned to me today on the flip side is how having cameras facing into people's homes can certainly be construed by some people as overly intrusive into their personal life. Just something to think about when we say "Why don't you turn on your camera?"


I hate to say that keeping things simple and clear is common sense, but I would certainly advocate focusing on this to keep your employees up to date and get the valuable real-time feedback to the leaders. Maybe even buy a few walkie talkies if they still make them :)

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