Organizational Aerodynamics – Chapter One, Part Two

Organizational Aerodynamics

(Copyright 2000, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter One, Part Two

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A primary feature of your flying machine is your organization’s engine or motor, which creates profit by maintaining a steady flow of wind over your wings and a stream of customers coming through your website or front door.  It also needs to overcome the negative forces of loss, drag and the overall resistance of the business environment you’re flying through.  Your organization’s engine provides the power which enables you to overcome obstacles and maintain a proper altitude by producing a superior product or service.  An engine producing poor products or services is in dire need of a tune up, is very inefficient and requires maintenance expertise that your organization may or may not have.  If you can’t tune up the engine yourself, then call in someone who can – otherwise you’ll continue to under perform and lose altitude – setting up a potentially dangerous situation.

Your engine unfortunately doesn’t run on air alone and requires fuel to provide the continuous output of energy required to efficiently keep your organization airborne.  Peak demands like increasing speed, carrying heavier loads and climbing to higher altitudes requires increasing the fuel flow.  This fuel is provided in your organization by harnessing the creativity of your crew and refining it into a unique blend of effort and creativity that produces superior results.  Results are produced by finding and maintaining the correct blend and ratio between a high octane level and a focused and sustained creativity index to produce the spark of combustion that your organization’s engine requires.  Combustion is the actual internal process within your engine that propels the organization forward and generates greater profits.  Profits lift the organization ever higher and higher into the wild blue yonder and allows your organization to fly independently under its own power!

Now realistically, it’s not quite that simple.  A flying company can be quite a complicated bit of machinery.  You have to get the fuel mixture right.  There are dials and gauges to watch over and interpret.  The business climate around you can produce severe weather and turbulence.  If you’re not being careful or clearing the airspace visually out the cockpit windows and forget to pay attention to your radar, your flying machine might just crash into a mountain or another flying organization!  In order to avoid these and many other pitfalls in your flying environment, you need a skilled, confident and daring pilot – commonly referred to as an entrepreneur – in the cockpit to fly your organization.  Your pilot is called the Captain because he or she is in charge and responsible for the safety of everyone onboard.  To the right of the Captain in the cockpit is the First Officer or co-pilot, whose duties are to assist the pilot in flying your organization.

Your flying organization also needs a good navigator sitting just behind your pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit.  His or her job is to plot your course, operate the radar, monitor your engine’s performance and keep an eye on the overall flight environment in order to keep your flying machine on course and on schedule according to the flight plan.  The navigator is the one who creates your flight plan – commonly referred to as a business plan – and prepares the route of flight for each leg of your organization’s journey to its destination.  The navigator could wear many different hats and be referred to in various ways, such as: the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), President of the Company, General Manager (GM), Board of Directors, Owner or Senior Partner – and he or she may also be the pilot of your organization as well.  However, the more hats one person wears in this flying machine the more difficult his or her job becomes.  If he or she isn’t on the ball, they might overlook something critical to the safety of flight and cause your flying organization to have an emergency on their hands.  Commonly, your pilot will  will be referred to as the entrepreneur, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President. Your co-pilot is typically the Senior Vice President and the navigator is often referred to as the Chief Operations Officer (COO).

Another key member of your flight crew is the flight engineer, or the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  His or her job is to monitor the switches, knobs, gauges and instrument displays commonly referred to as performance indicators.  You’ll want to keep track of your organization’s performance while airborne to ensure you have a smooth flying operation under you.  Your navigator is watching out for obstructions and keeping you on course by paying close attention to your flight plan and route of flight.  In much the same way, your flight engineer is keeping track of the flying organization’s performance indicators, as well as monitoring the business climate.  His or her desk in your flying organization should have lots of dials and gauges that display up to the minute status readings for monitoring these various performance indicators, like altitude, airspeed, lift, drag, fuel flow, fuel quantity and overall engine performance.  When necessary, he or she can advise the entrepreneur to throw a few key switches and address critical issues like icing conditions and turbulence that affect safety of flight, or recommend to the navigator that a course alteration is required to the flight plan.  The flight engineer keeps the organization’s focus on basic performance parameters and doesn’t allow the pilot to get too distracted from safely flying the organization.

Perhaps by this time you’re thinking, “Getting a flying organization airborne is a lot more complex and difficult than I originally thought!”  Well, in some ways you’re right and in other ways you’re wrong.  Flying a small organization can be a relatively simple process if you’re the pilot or entrepreneur and wear all the hats yourself.  You can even fly solo by the seat of your pants and take off in clear weather and have a wonderful sightseeing flight over the countryside for the afternoon.  However, if you desire to fly your organization as a jumbo jet, then you need to do your homework and spend quite a few hours in an accredited flight training program learning the ropes.

The most important point that you need to take away from this block of instruction is that if you’re losing altitude (money), jettison everything that isn’t nailed down (not producing profits).  Just like the old fashioned gas balloon pilot attempting to gain altitude by throwing sand bags over the side, you must do whatever you have to do in order to maintain lift and overcome loss.  If you have lots of altitude, perhaps you have time to adjust the fuel mixture and add more creativity in order to enable your engine to give you additional performance, but if you’re already at low altitude there isn’t any time!  If your business doesn’t have a highly trained and qualified pilot in the cockpit, is saddled by excess inventory that is no longer in demand or burdened by a department with a negative creativity performance ratio, then you need to correct the situation immediately to avoid crashing.  As the pilot and entrepreneur of your flying organization, it’s up to you to make something happen.  All eyes will be on you to provide the leadership and vision needed to get out of the current crisis your organization’s in.  Remember, the rest of the crew are counting on you.  If you crash, everyone goes down together.  If you recover, there might just be smooth sailing and a very pleasant voyage ahead for everyone.  Preparation is everything, timing’s the key.  Good luck, bon voyage and God speed!

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“…helping individuals, organizations and businesses creatively solve their challenges…”

Organizational Aerodynamics – Chapter One, Part One

Organizational Aerodynamics

(Copyright 2000, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter One, Part One

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We can all relate visually to the awe-inspiring images of flying machines.  From the early days of the Wright Brothers to the most modern of today’s aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and spacecraft, the nature of flight produces deeply personal and intense responses in each and every one of us.  It’s been that way from the beginning and always will be.

Now imagine your world as an airplane.  Think of it as having wings, a cockpit, a fuselage, a tail, a rudder, landing gear and powerful motors.  Visualize that organization of yours performing acrobatic maneuvers in the sky.  Imagine the rush of the wind over its wings and the thrill of doing loops and barrel rolls across the sky.  You are the pilot of this craft and at the controls!

Now take a moment to visualize your life, organization or business.  How do you feel about them?  How are they performing?  What image comes to mind as you think about your world?  If your life, business or organization were aircraft, what type would they be?  Old, tired and worn out airplanes are put out to pasture in the bone yard – almost guaranteed to never fly again.  Museum pieces and static displays have all the characteristics of an airplane except the ability to fly – there often isn’t even an engine in the airplane – it only looks like there is.  Is that the image of your organization?

Or is your business rather like a nostalgic old-fashioned gas balloon or a modern-day hot air balloon?  Lighter-than-air balloons are carried along by the wind, without much directional ability of their own and very much at the mercy of their environment.  They can’t rapidly change course, direction or speed – if at all – but they do strike very graceful and nostalgic silhouettes against the sky.  Is that the image of your life, business or organization?

Perhaps your world is like a blimp or dirigible, an airship plodding along at less than remarkable speeds.  A ponderous behemoth that travels slowly and leisurely, trading speed for a pleasant and enjoyable journey.  Is that the description of your organization?

Maybe you visualize your company as a light, agile and highly maneuverable biplane.  Simply constructed on a wooden frame and covered with fabric, the biplane is designed for tremendous maneuverability.  The lift generated by two wings on a lightweight airframe allows it to turn as tightly as a dog chasing its own tail.  Highly maneuverable within its design parameters, the biplane provides superior performance.  Is this an accurate description of your life or organization?

Maybe you’re thinking that your business is really prestigious and resembles today’s modern airliners – perhaps a Boeing 747 or an Airbus A380.  Is this a better visualization of your organization?  A modern-day airliner can travel thousands of miles without refueling and is a wonderful example of engineering skill and expertise.  Does your world present the same picture?

Now I know what you’re thinking: “My organization stands head and shoulders above all the rest.  The only possible way to represent my organization as an aircraft is to describe it as a jet fighter, shooting down all the competition!”  Fast and highly maneuverable, modern jet fighters own the sky – independent, versatile and quickly able to reconfigure between roles and requirements at the flip of a switch.  Is that the image of your life, business or organization?

With a visual image of your organization clearly in mind, now it’s time to start defining a few of the aviation terms that will affect you in this new environment that you find yourself in.  The wild blue yonder is not unlike the business climate or economic climate that you find yourself in today.  Airplanes need lift in order to fly, which is a process generated by the flow of air taking a greater distance to travel over the curved top of the wing than the flat underside which creates lift. Your business needs to maintain the same airflow or momentum to stay aloft.

Your life, business or organization requires income and cash flow in order to leave the ground and compete in the business climate of the wild blue yonder, unless of course it’s a non-profit organization.  In that case, it needs a steady flow of donations or funding which provides lift to the organization.  Cash flow is generated by the steady flow of customers through the front door or website of your business and purchasing the product or service you’re selling.  The ratio of income to expenses over your organization’s wings is what creates lift and without profit your business will never get off the ground – or if it’s already aloft it won’t be able to stay airborne for long.  Expenses will build up on your airframe like ice crystals creating drag and the momentum that you need to remain airborne will falter and fizzle, causing you to lose lift.  Without lift, gravity will cause your organization to drop out of the sky.

In the world of organizational flying, loss equates to the natural process we describe as gravity.  Gravity, like loss, works in an opposing process against lift in our airplane.  Once you run out of the lifting power of profit, loss begins to pull and tug at your aircraft.  Without making an in-flight correction, your business will descend either gradually or in some instances quite rapidly out of control.  The world of organizational flying is inherently dangerous and unforgiving.  In order to be able to compete and stay airborne, you have to fully understand the environment you’re flying in.

Aircraft have a smooth, slippery shape in order to efficiently cut through the air, so streamlining your business will reduce drag and create a more efficient flying machine.  The environment you’re flying through – wind, clouds, rain, sleet, hail, snow, lightning, wind shear, thunderstorms, temperature, altitude, updrafts, downdrafts – creates an opposing force that we call resistance, turbulence and/or headwind in your business climate.  It takes tremendous effort to overcome this resistance and remain safely airborne.  You need to keep a steady flow of air or cash flow over your wings just to get airborne.

Takeoff is especially critical, because you have to point your organization directly into the wind or resistance in order to take off.  This means you will be facing your stiffest competition as you attempt to get your business or organization airborne, safely clear the runway and retract your landing gear.  This combination of resistance, turbulence, headwind, drag and loss is very difficult to initially overcome.  Profit alone has a difficult time creating enough lift to overcome gravity and resistance in the business climate – especially right after takeoff.  Besides, your takeoff clearance may even be delayed due to other competing organizations and businesses holding on the taxiway in front of you waiting to take the runway.  In fact, there are many other influences besides just the economic climate working against your organization’s airworthiness.

The biggest single source of drag that affects the airworthiness of your life, organization or business is debt.  Debt is such an opposing force to lift that your personal or organizational engine may not be able to overcome its resistance.  The opposing force of loss begins to pull your aircraft down to the ground.  The greater the resistance of debt in relation to profit and cash flow, the quicker your world will begin to lose altitude.  This could quickly create an unrecoverable situation and put you out of control.  The result can be quite catastrophic, so if you’re losing altitude jettison everything that isn’t nailed down in a last-ditch attempt to lighten your aircraft and avoid crashing.  Minimizing debt is a primary concern for safety of flight and is a key principle of organizational aerodynamics.

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“…helping individuals, organizations and businesses creatively solve their challenges…”