Aviation is proof that given, the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible. ~Eddie Rickenbacker
Three verbs are drilled into the head of every Navy pilot during flight training; three little words that continually save lives. Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. At all times, but especially in times of trouble, first you have to keep the plane safely in the air, second figure out your current and intended direction, and third, talk to external controllers and your crew.
Over the past several decades that we have been involved in many successful turnarounds, business transformations and growth opportunities, these three verbs have been present in every successful engagement we have been a part of or watched from the sidelines.
The successful rescue and return to profitability of Ford Motor Company has been a classic example of these three principles: Aviate, Navigate and Communicate.
Alan Mulally and his senior executive team knew the first task was to “Aviate”, that is, keep the company from spinning out of control and crashing into bankruptcy. They quickly moved to secure the viability of the company through selling assets and raising money. They did this by aggressively restructuring the massive organization to operate profitably to be in line with current market conditions and buyer preferences.
Second, they had to “Navigate”, that is develop a clear plan and roadmap that was in line with the realities of todays global auto marketplace. Whereas previously the various divisions of Ford had been operating as independent businesses, often competing with each other for customers and not sharing best practices and processes, the new plan was very simple: One Ford: One Team, One Plan, One Goal.
And the detail of the new strategic plan is staggering, with over 300 slides reviewed by the senior team every week in a 2 1/2 hour strategic business review. In the early days of the turnaround, the team met daily and went over and over the 300 important metrics and programs that were the key to getting to their goal: “An exciting viable Ford delivering profitably growth for all”. And the all is very specific: Customers, Employees, Dealers, Investors, Suppliers, Unions, and Communities.
Third, they “Communicated”, and they continue to communicate the plan in every speech, every interview, every internal meeting, every chance they have to tell the new Ford story. Watch any video of Alan Mulally, Mark Fields, Lewis Booth or other Ford senior executives being interviewed in the press and you will hear the new Ford story over and over again. One Ford, One Plan, One Goal is communicated to Ford employees around the world and repeated often.
You don’t have to be in a turnaround or rescue situation to apply the Aviate – Navigate – Communicate principles inside your organization. In fact, by using this approach as “the way we do business”, you might just fly higher.
Tight Lines . . .
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