Responding to Change over Following a Plan

The reason why you just can’t follow an upfront plan is because things just change!

So I embarked on a routine flight from Gatwick to Gibraltar, a journey I have done a number of times over the last 18 months. So a lot of empirical data to suggest, with certainty, that I will be in Gibraltar before lunchtime, actually scheduled arrival of 11.35am to be even more precise.

Now while I expect for the odd diversion to Malaga during the winter months, invariably due to cross winds which means that planes can’t land in Gibraltar, today I didn’t count on a 7-hour delay in the height of summer.

I boarded the flight as usual and on time; in fact the boarding was relatively swift – for once good flow! Once boarded, we were then informed that French Air Traffic Control had gone on strike and we were delayed for 4 hours. It appears that we had just missed the final scheduled slot to beat the strike!

4 hours became 5 hours became 6 hours and finally 7 hours before we took flight at 2.45pm.

As a consequence of the delay, we had to change cabin crew halfway through. In fairness both Captains were great at keeping us informed of progress – regular feedback loops. In addition both Captains delivered their updates from the cabin and not the flight deck – the most efficient means of conveying information is face-to-face.

Because of their ‘transparency’ a number of passengers were able to ‘inspect’ the situation and decided to ‘adapt’ by offloading.

We were also served complimentary soft drinks and food from the EasyJet bistro but I was sat in row 13; yes the very middle of the plane! And of course, the trolleys started at back and the front. By the time the trolley arrived they had run out of sandwiches, soup and the like. So at 4pm I had a Cappuccino and Porridge! So you could say that I had to ‘flex’ my original requirement for food on the basis that any food was more ‘valuable’ than no food!

To make matters worse, I recently switched my iPhone 4s to a 5 – normally a straightforward upgrade. However, the iPhone 5 is a company phone that was lost in Malaga (a previous diverted flight to Gibraltar) but was found and returned via the power of social media (Twitter) from Holland – global collaboration!

What I didn’t realise was the phone was ‘locked’ following the ‘reported lost’ and never unlocked. This realisation only occurred the day before I was due to fly and I had already left home. Surely a simple task to unlock? No! First I had to read incredibly small numbers on the back of the phone (the IMEI number) – I needed help from someone considerably younger than myself. Now that I had the number we can unlock? No! It takes up to 48 hours! Not very lean!

So to compound my anguish, I am unable to inform anyone of my dilemma and delay on the plane while sat on the Gatwick tarmac for 7 hours including my client in Gibraltar. No feedback loop from me!

So what – you might ask? Maybe not a common occurrence and probably quite extreme but in life plans do change to a greater or lesser extent and as a consequence we have to ‘embrace’ that change and adapt accordingly.

Then tell me why, when we walk inside those corporate walls we don’t adopt the same behaviour? We create plans, expect to follow them (to the letter) and then are surprised when they deviate from the plan. And rather embrace the change we have much ‘gnashing’ of teeth and look for people to blame.

We should come to value responding to change over following a plan just as we do in our personal life and just as the 100+ passengers did today.

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