Make float non-negotiable

Full concourse at Salt Lake City International Airport

C concourse at Salt Lake City (SLC) at 8:30 pm this past Monday evening. It was totally bananas. Not an empty chair to be found. It was the same story at SeaTac (SEA) and worse at Kansas City (MCI).

What I have been noticing with our airport infrastructure is that much of it is undersized for the current demand. One reason this is a big deal? When demand is this high ANY hiccup to a perfect day creates a problem cascade.

In our case, the aircraft we should have boarded at SLC had a mechanical that delayed our boarding. The delay meant the concourse had to hold 160 of us for 45 minutes longer than it should have. The delay meant we were contributing, in part, to the circus show.

But it also illuminated another problem. Perfect days are exceedingly rare. Problems always happen. Relying on “perfect” in any industry to keep things humming is a fool’s bargain. Instead, as we are able, we must intentionally build float into all systems.

Float in our calendar.

Float in our bank account.

Float in our project schedules.

Float in our teams.

Float is necessary for ongoing success.

Float is also the first thing to go when the going gets tough.

The mechanical meant we needed a different airplane. For Delta to get that done in only 45 minutes was a job well done. Was it float or just luck?

by Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan is the Head Coach at Sandcastle Company, a Seattle-based leadership training organization. His first book, Future Leader: Rebooting Leadership to Win the Millennial and Tech Future [link], is now available. Jonathan regularly writes and speaks about The New Leader Way, leadership resilience, and the future of work. He has years of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors, a master's degree from Seattle University, and professional coach training from the University of Miami.

Filed under: Leadership

Published on October 9, 2019

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