Anthony 'AB' Bourke, Renowned Figher Pilot Leadership Speaker, Will Engage Your Team, Challenge Their Thinking, and Teach Them How To Perform at Mach 2.
Keynote Speaker on Change
Keynote Speaker Anthony ‘AB’ Bourke has spent his entire military and business careers adapting to change. On the surface, flying an F-16 Fighter Jet on a combat air patrol mission over Manhattan after 9/11 may not appear to have much in common with growing a business. In fact, both require excellent leadership, teamwork, communication, standard operating procedures, preparation, and adapting to constant change.
In business — just as in the military — change is a constant. We make plans and execute on them, only to find that competitors, customers, or other market forces can have unexpected impact over time. The three key factors in dealing with change are preparation, flexibility, and attitude.
Eisenhower once said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Fighter pilots often say, “Measure it with a microscope, cut it with an axe.” Both sayings reflect how indispensable planning is in both business and combat missions. They also reflect the reality that once it’s time to execute, our plans don’t always go the way we expect them to.
Fighter pilots have two core beliefs when it comes to preparation. Identify a leader who is ultimately responsible for the plan, and make sure that our leader solicits input from all available resources to develop the best possible plan. As fighter pilots go through their pre-mission planning, they spend a great deal of time up front identifying their specific mission objectives and the biggest threats that could prevent them from accomplishing these objectives. Once they have worked through these two important questions, they build a plan and a timeline associated with this plan as though their mission will go absolutely perfectly. Although everyone recognizes that we don’t live in a perfect world and our competition is unlikely to act the way we want them to, fighter pilots believe that we have to start somewhere. Similarly in business, we must plan our work and then work our plan.
“Flexibility is the key to airpower”
– Airpower theorist Gen. Giulio Douhet
Once fighter pilots have prepared the perfect plan, they take one additional and key step that most business people do not. Fighter pilots stay flexible and prepare for change by ripping their perfect plan apart and preparing for all the possible contingencies that could occur during their mission. Often referred to as “what ifs,” fighter pilots think of contingencies as the threats that we can’t control but that we must react to instantly if we are to execute effectively in a rapidly changing environment. In the fighter pilot’s world, contingencies might be changes in the weather, a jet that develops mechanical problems before takeoff, an air refueling tanker that is late, or a siting of ‘friendlies’ in the target area.
The key takeaway here is that when you’re flying at Mach 2 and there are people shooting at you, that is not the best time to plan for your contingencies. In a business meeting, just as in a combat mission, plan for your contingencies while you’re on the ground in a one-g environment. Then when things change and your meeting gets cut 30 minutes short, or the decision maker for your proposal doesn’t show, you have already thought about how to handle these issues and can react instantly and stay flexible.
“Attitude is everything. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me, and 90 percent how I react to it.”
It is a fact that the best military commanders and the best business leaders on the planet have an attitude that allows them to embrace change. Numerous accounts of military losses are attributable to generals or admirals who failed to react in the face of changes that ran contrary to their plans. By the same token, companies like Dell Computer, TWA Airlines and most of this country’s automobile manufacturers are either casualties or near misses from having an attitude that prevented them from staying ahead of the changes in their markets.
An attitude that expects change and is willing to flex on a moment’s notice is best exemplified by the US Marine Corps’ famous saying “Semper Gumby.” A play on the official Marine Corps’ motto of “Semper Fidelis” or “Semper Fi,” Semper Gumby reflects the attitude that just like the cartoon character Gumby, US Marines maintainan attitude of constant flexibility so that they can adapt to change and fight and win in any environment.
Here at Mach2 Consulting, we understand that change is inevitable, it is more often than not a good thing, and it is something to be embraced. If your organization is grappling with major changes, let us help your employees frame that change within a positive context, both for themselves and your organization.