Fly the Airplane

I just finished Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, in which he discussed how instituting checklists can reduce risk and increase positive results in many areas of management and operations.

One of many stories that caught my eye in the book was that of the checklist for engine failure in single engine Cesna planes. These craft, flown by a solo pilot, have a set series of actions that the manufacturer recommends taking when the engine fails, giving the pilot the best chance possible of getting the propeller back in action.

The first item on the checklist? FLY THE AIRPLANE.

Solo pilots become so absorbed in restarting the engine that they are prone to forget flying the gliding craft so that when they do restart the engine they haven’t already nosed over into the ground.

This is a very important point when in crisis, either professional or personal. We have to keep flying our planes. Whether that is making sure important tasks are still being completed during overwhelming crises at work or taking care of healthy family members even while caring for another who is critically ill.

If we don’t keep flying the plane we won’t have much left to work with once the crisis has passed. And they all do pass eventually.

As Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through Hell, keep going.” Keep flying the plane.

2 thoughts on “Fly the Airplane

  1. How funny–I just finished The Checklist Manifesto this past weekend. I really liked it–I think it’s the best book Gawande’s written so far. (And I say that as someone who loved both of his previous books.)

    I’ll certainly be blogging about it on Acronym, but I was particularly struck by what he had to say about managing complexity–it inspired me to look at the work I do with fresh eyes.

    Hope you have a great weekend, David!

  2. Thanks Lisa! I agree, very well done book. Quite a few lessons that can be applied pretty much anywhere.

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