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3 Steps to Stop "Building the Plane as We Fly" and Start Building Thriving Teams & Improving Workplace Culture




Alaska airlines, Boeing 737, workplace
Boeing 737 taking off

"We're building the plane as we fly"...... awkward chuckle



I look forward to the day that we retire this notion as acceptable. It's readily understood that particular moments, seasons, and certain situations will require this ethos but accepting this as a normal flow of operations is often the silent beginning to burnout.



It's similar to the notion of driving your vehicle with your check engine light on. The car may still be driving but the underlying potential for long-term damage if ignored or sustained for too long is substantial.



Not only does this format of "performance" in the workplace ultimately impact the bottom line through employee burnout (to the tune of $160 billion annually, yikes), poor retention, and a lack of clarity around the ultimate vision, it's downright unhealthy financially, mentally, and emotionally.



I was one of those high performers who quickly found myself burned out and in search of something more in tune with my nervous system. Because let's face it; simply existing can be tough at times let alone trying to keep a corporate jet afloat that your livelihood also is tethered to.



Alternative to flying and building at the same time?



- Streamline communication: Keep it simple and clear. Be honest when things pivot and it's okay to provide context even if brief. Basic communication would clear up so many of the snags that occur within the workflow pipeline. It's easier to communicate (and process) when you aren't operating at a clip speed with a blurry vision.



Schedule Maintenance Time: Just like if you were boarding a flight, the plane would have undergone a pre-emptively scheduled pre-fly checklist by the ground crew, so the same for the workplace. Strategically building in "breathing" moments for the intentionality of workflow and collaboration, identifying areas that need to pivot, and ensuring the overall long-term goal (and short-term) are still in sight. No one wants to make an emergency landing.



Communication AGAIN: I can't stress this aspect enough. When the culture is "TLDR" at all times, so is the burnout, team collaboration, and cohesive workflow. A simple moment of intentional communication. A brief moment of simply venting without being shamed by this notion of hyperproductivity. It places the human behind the productivity last. The workplace culture can be saved.



If Boeing and the recent Alaska flight aren't enough evidence that this notion is clearly a problem on so many levels (and in so many industries), then I am afraid we may be too far gone.



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