Working in teams and across functions can often be complex and challenging. If you’re like most teams, you have certain processes that you are supposed to follow (guidelines, operating rules, specific forms to be utilized, etc.) When attending to these, how often do you encounter a process that is broken, doesn’t work, or seems to be pointless? Maybe your organization has processes that work most of the time? The bigger question is what do you do when you encounter troubled processes? How often do you attempt to fix broken processes? Do you ever try to diagnose what could make a process more effective?
To be part of a high performing team, it is important to constantly evaluate processes to determine if they are working, effective, and worthwhile. Effective processes help us to be efficient, reliable for our customers (internal and external), and minimizes the likelihood of a problem occurring.
In 2003, a US Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 crashed at an air show in Idaho. The pilot ejected from his aircraft and aside from the crashed fighter jet, there was no other damage. As unfortunate as this story is, I think it is an excellent example of taking the opportunity to improve processes. Take a look at the video from both inside and outside the cock pit.
After investigating the crash, it was determined that the pilot had incorrectly calculated his altitude as if he were at Nellis Air Force Base (where the Thunderbirds are stationed). The investigation board looking into the crash determined that “other factors” such as the pilots need to calculate MSL (Mean Sea Level) altitude to the AGL (Above Ground Level) altitude contributed to the errors resulting in the crash.
As a result of the pilots error and “other factors,” the Air Force determined that the processes around the calculation of altitude and “Split S” exercise needed to be fixed. And fix they did. Thunderbird pilots must now call out the MSL altitude at air shows. When they execute the Split S maneuver, they must climb an additional 1,000 feet to prevent and minimize the danger of altitude miscalculation from occurring again.
While the pilot only suffered minor injuries and a $20 million aircraft was lost, an improvement in a process was gained. While we may never know the future value or full impact in improving processes, it helps take a high performing team to the next level. Call it Continuous Process Improvement.
Next time a process, action, or project in your team doesn’t go quite as planned, don’t be complacent. You don’t have to be the team leader seeking to improve team development. Step up as a team member and ask the following questions:
- What went wrong?
- Why did it go wrong?
- Is it a problem or one time goof?
- How can we prevent this from happening again?
Maybe there is nothing needs to be done after your analysis, but at least you’ve asked the questions to be sure.