Even a minor deviation - a few degrees - may jeopardize what you hope to accomplish.
What started as a fun, adventurous sightseeing trip to Antarctica ended in a tragedy that killed every person on board. Unbeknown to the pilots, someone had modified the flight coordinates by only two degrees—a small difference with huge ramifications.
This seemingly insignificant error placed the airplane 28 miles east of where they should have been—and where the pilots assumed they were. As the aircraft approached Antarctica, the pilots decreased altitude in order to give the passengers a better view of the pristine, breathtaking landscape.
Neither of the pilots had made this particular flight before, but both were very experienced and expected no difficulties. There was no way they could have known that the error, a change of just two degrees, had placed them in the path of the active volcano Mount Erebus that rises 12,000 feet from the frozen ground.
The plane flew on. The white of the snow that covered the volcano blended into the white of the clouds above and behind it. All this white made it appear as if they were flying over flat ground. By the time the instruments warned the pilots that the ground was rapidly rising toward them, it was too late for them to correct the problem. The plane crashed into the volcano, killing all 257 passengers on impact.
Sometimes small errors seem harmless and we do not feel the need to correct them. Occasionally we consciously choose to cut corners and make small concessions on matters that seem inconsequential at the time. The error or change often appears so small that it seems to be of little or no importance. We may think no one will notice. Or we think, if they do notice, they won’t mind. Usually we believe that these small corner-cutting choices will make little difference in the end.
This is simply not true. Disastrous consequences can result from even very small errors or a deviation from what we know is best. If leaders are aware of errors or deviations, then they should be corrected. If course corrections cannot be made, then contingency plans can be initiated.
Whatever the circumstances, staying true to the charted course and maintaining accurate awareness of where you are headed is the best way to ensure success. This applies to an organization’s direction as well as an individual’s code of ethics and values. Even a minor deviation—a few degrees—may jeopardize the desired outcome.
Here are a few points for reflection:
- Think of the responsibilities you have. How do you monitor them to prevent misdirection of course?
Consider the consequences of inaccurate (even if only slightly off) feedback to the success of a mission.
- Recall experiences where timely data was not provided. What was the result?
- Course correction is only possible when quick, reliable, and accurate notice is provided and then quickly acknowledged and acted on.