Get Bad News Out Early – Make Time Your Trusted Ally

Author By Jim Lara
get bad news out early

What do you do when things “go south” as you execute your aviation responsibilities? You can be sure that your response and the first course of action you take will have a significant impact on whether the eventual outcome is good, bad or indifferent.

Watch out for Mr. Murphy

Business aviation is one of the most dynamic professions on the planet. It’s characterized by rapid, nearly constant, change. Despite our best efforts and planning, Murphy’s Law can, from time to time, hand us some real challenges.

As it happens, Mr. Murphy has several “laws” attributed to him, but the one I am referring to is: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

And, to that I would add: “at the most inopportune time!

And “time” is the key,because when trouble occurs, the first thing to focus on is TIME.

Ask yourself:

  • How much time do I really have to figure things out?
  • When must decisions be made?
  • How can I transform this situation from adrenaline-pumping chaos to orderly resolution?

Time can be an Ally or Enemy

Either time is on your side,as they say, or it’s going to work against you. But the interesting correlative to that statement is that it’s always your choice.

Nearly without exception,the two best things you can do are to communicate and collaborate.

If you’re in business aviation, your role is most likely somewhere on the continuum of service delivery. And, for those of you in an aviation maintenance role, the following example might just be relatable:

Scheduling has completed all of the logistics and the pilots have just arrived two hours before scheduled departure time. You’re in the middle of the pre-flight when you find a very significant discrepancy. It wasn’t there last night, but it’s present now and it doesn’t look good.

You run a couple of quick diagnostics, but they’re inconclusive. It’s time for your first critical decision. Do you continue to investigate or do you communicate?

If you want time to be on your side, you had better communicate with those “downstream,” to let them identify their options. On the other hand, if you choose to continue troubleshooting and evaluating without communicating, you’re consuming their most valuable asset (time), and jeopardizing a successful resolution to the situation.

The example serves to illustrate that when you get your bad news out early, you’re enabling others to begin identifying options, but in a collaborative way, and on a concurrent basis with your efforts to rectify the mechanical fault that you’ve identified.

The Power of Collaboration

“Time” works for you or against you in every one of the functional areas of business aviation:Maintenance, Business Administration, Flight Operations, Scheduling &Dispatch and Executive Office/Traveler Interface.

Here’s another example that crosses functional boundaries:

Your aircraft is in the middle of a major inspection at one of the finest Maintenance Repair & Overhaul facilities. Before it went to the MRO, the maintenance and aviation directors carefully developed the work scope with input from the chief pilot and the aircraft’s crew chief.

The budget range was developed in collaboration with aviation’s business manager and approved by Corporate.

But now, things have just changed from a smooth, on-time inspection to a potential showstopper: The MRO has found significant corrosion. This will likely impact the project’s schedule and the budget.

So now what do you do?

You know this isn’t going to be pleasant. When Corporate hears about it, they aren’t going to be happy.

Since you’re the one at the MRO with the aircraft, you have to make some decisions. Should you make the call now or later? If you wait, is there a chance that it may not be as bad as it seems to be? Could this be a career-limiting phone call for you? What’s the best, least painful course of action?

Although it might seem counter-intuitive, your best bet is to make the call and make it now. A timely notification will enable others to help you think through the situation.

By doing so, you’ll allow the aviation director to begin developing service alternatives, since this aircraft is heavily scheduled immediately after the completion of the maintenance event.

Your timely call will also alert the aviation business manager to give Corporate an “early warning” that the inspection will be over budget, so that Finance can plan ahead appropriately.

Again, you should be harnessing the power of collaboration that can only get underway when you initiate communication.


Timeliness is the Operative Term

Flight crews also play a critical role when it comes to dealing with the unexpected. Most of our aircraft aren’t yet fitted with real-time telemetry of the aircraft’s mechanical condition. So we must rely on the observant flight crew members’ keen senses to detect when things aren’t quite right or trending the wrong way.

But when something appears to be amiss or “not quite what was expected,” are we suggesting that the flight crew should troubleshoot while en route? Absolutely not!

Rather, you should follow the actions outlined in the aircraft flight manual (AFM). Then, you should carefully document the situation (verbally on your smartphone to start with), which will certainly help the maintenance team.

And, if time, conditions and equipment permit, a contemporaneous phone call with maintenance and an emailed photo or two might help them get a jump on resolving the problem.

Once more, timely communication enables the start of collaboration to minimize the effective response time and maximize its effectiveness.

The bottom line is that unexpected problems that occur with regularity in business aviation need to be addressed in a timely and effective manner. These snags are not like fine red wine; they never get better with the passage of time.


Get Bad News Out Early

So the next time you’re confronted with vexing, acute, unexpected problems, take a couple of deep breaths, assess the situation realistically, and then communicate with those who can collaborate with you to produce the best outcome possible.

Make it a cultural value in your organization that everyone is expected to ‘”get bad news out early.”

And make “time” their trusted ally.


Are You Prepared?

Before bad news strikes, it’s a very good thing to be prepared. Please remember that at Gray Stone Advisors, we help coach and develop business aviation teams and individual leaders on how to run the flight department as a “business within a business.”

Much of this coaching has to do with strengthening existing process and communication skills, both internally as well as externally with corporate. To learn more, you’re invited to contact us for a free, 30-minute phone consultation.