In the aerospace industry, reactive problem solving is the norm. Satellite programs start with a schedule behind where it is supposed to be. A launch window has already been acquired or the alignment of celestial bodies give only a two week period in order for a mission to proceed. We attempt to build in schedule margin to enable a more proactive approach but our customers push back. Because we need the work, our top management accepts contracts and we start off in our reaction mode from the get go.
I was discussing this situation with a couple of friends at work. We were throwing around ideas we could implement to become more proactive rather than reactive. One stuck out that relates to the idea presented in the prior blog, Creating is Primary for the Business of You. Instead of focusing on the need date, why not focus on the start date.
There’s so much going on in high-tech industries like aerospace where employees operate on information and task overload. Often the people who survive the baptism by fire are those who draw energy from crises. The present “fire” is focused on even though there are tasks to be done in a month or a week from now. Work gets done when the heat is turned up. We have engineers who don’t start their work until the day before it’s due or after they get told by other functional organizations that it needs to be done. Management gets involved to set priority or even micro-manage if they have time. All this just perpetuates the reaction mode started at contract award.
Switching from need date to start date is a subtle shift in paradigm. Our focus will be on what we want to get done instead of the work needing to be done. We will move from avoidance-problem-solving to creating something with our time and resources. When issues arise, we can address them with our problem-solving skills and solve them in manners which serve our long-term purposes. Having our vision in mind allows us to use the problems that arise to accomplish change that will help us in the long run instead of solving problems to avoid issues in the short term. When we solve problems to avoid issues opportunities do not seem present. However, focusing on our vision allows more opportunities to become apparent that were there all along.
So, the next time we get an assignment or task ourselves, we should decide when is the best time to start and then manage ourselves to it.