Tactical Execution Builds a Bridge to Long-Term Success

Written by Crystal Lee

I have two friends with a history of air travel anxiety. Though they each had been on countless flights, the slightest disturbance of the aircraft really upset them. In their minds, any amount of turbulence was the precursor to what would surely be an inevitable crash. They felt completely powerless, as they gripped their armrests and double-checked their seat belts, as if these miniature rituals alone could sustain the aircraft until arrival.

But then, something interesting happened with one of these anxious friends. He began to take aviation lessons.

That’s right, he learned to fly. He began to experience the turbulence from the cockpit, and it changed his outlook on the entire experience. When traveling for business, he no longer grips the armrest and double-checks his seat belt at the onset of turbulence, because he can visualize what the pilot is doing from one moment to the next. He knows what the likely causes are and how the pilot will respond. The need for meaningless ritual and hand-wringing has been replaced with tactical awareness and TRUST – that the pilot will manage the details as he should.

By linking his understanding of the detailed, tactical execution of the flight with his overall plan to arrive safely, this friend changed his trajectory as it relates to air travel.

In far too many businesses right now, the turbulence of sales, product management, and customer service make monthly business reviews dreaded, turbulent occasions. The reality of sinking sales projections seem to threaten the credibility of business plans that were put into place not that long ago. For others, the steep and sudden climb of unexpected demand has turned these same reviews into a forum for recounting the many surprises seen over the last four weeks, as supply chains exhaust their ability to keep up.  And all together, teams hold their breath to wait and see what will happen on this trip, as they grip arm rests and double-check seat belts, hoping the plane stays in the air.

Perhaps it’s time we learn to fly.  Oftentimes, the missing piece between a business plan and the confidence to achieve that plan in the midst of rough air, is tactical capability. Much like aviation, a responsive, short-term, here-and-now tactical process will not conflict with the overall plan but serves as a powerful compliment to meeting longer term goals.

Good pilots are constantly scanning the horizon for issues to avoid and opportunities to improve the flight. And they communicate those discoveries quickly and clearly. Tactically savvy businesses do the same. Good pilots are proactive and decisive when they experience or anticipate rough air, weighing the impact of their choices on the overall flight plan. Businesses with robust tactical execution processes aren’t afraid to make quick adjustments week to week, and always know how those changes will impact the longer term, monthly integrated business plan.

Aviation is a safe option for millions of travelers, in part because real-time adjustments can be made on a regular basis.  Just like pilots do not take off and allow best laid plans to dictate their every action, so too businesses cannot rely solely on business plans in which long-range forecasts eclipse short-term realities.  Both strategic and tactical views are critical and must be integrated to allow for eventual success no matter what disturbances arise along the way.