'That's how I make decisions. I draw how I approach a lot of issues from aviation when it comes to the management of ideas. One of my favourite sayings is that if you muck up the approach you muck up the landing.'
- The Hon. Sussan Ley, Minister for Health & Sport
‘Check wheels,’ the Air Traffic Controller would radio to the student military pilot as he commenced his approach to land.
'Wheels down,’ the student would reply by rote and habit as he continued his descent with undercarriage fully retracted and the ‘Wheels Up’ alarm in the cockpit blaring.
Process is important.
We get good at it.
We turn up to our desk.
Read and type emails.
The routine of our working day becomes the Thing We Do. The process gradually replaces our Widget as the Thing We Make.
We attend staff meetings and professional development days and listen and nod to sincerely but falsely acknowledge we’ve heard and responded to the 'Check Wheels' and cockpit alarms as our boss and peers and consultants and guest speakers and strategic papers and Ted Talks and even our own little voice warn us that we’ve forgotten to engage our Widget.
Our knowledge worker rituals and the clatter of weasel words that herald them deafen us to the feedback on our process and progress and obscure the Widget it is meant to serve.
If you tapped the student pilot on the shoulder at 500 feet from violently colliding with the runway and asked whether he was doing his job he would say 'Of course. I'm flying. Now let me get on with it.'
Tap any office worker on their shoulder and ask what their Widget is and in my experience, few can answer or even see it as relevant. 'I'm too busy being busy.'
The curt voice of the vigilant Air Traffic Controller radioing 'Go Around!' would interrupt the student's doomed approach and save him from belly landing in a shower of sparks and grinding metal.
Like monks being called away from their manual labour seven times a day to pray, bosses must regularly call 'Check Widget' and force us back into conscious, engaged, mindful recitals of our decision making process and the Widget it's ultimately serving.