Flies vs. Planes | INCAE Master Programs

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Flies vs. Planes

December 2nd, 2014
German Retana

"In our company we hunt flies, but the planes escape us." Surely, you've heard this statement many times. It reminds me of the flight I was on when I wrote this column; the passenger next to me never ceased to be on the lookout for a fly (F) buzzing around the cabin. He tells me it is his first flight, but he has been distracted the whole time by this insect instead of enjoying his first aircraft experience (P). Are any of the following four scenarios relevant to your organization?

First, in some companies there is enormous pressure to cut costs in many small ways (F). This can include measures that affect client services, employee personal comfort at work and even physical security.  However, at the same time one can observe luxuries (P) preserved over the few excesses in small superfluous spending. There are disproportionate benefits between those that should save and those that order austerity that they don’t practice.  This double standard confuses and irritates personnel who see the lack of congruence parading before his eyes.

Second, the distortion between “flies” and “planes” is in the attention to priorities.  There are directors and managers that concentrate almost all their times in issues (F) that do not truthfully bring value to the company (P). Work addiction is so strong that it does not matter if one spends hours, what is important is that they are busy.  People confuse exhaustion with feeling accomplished.  Bosses orient themselves more toward the exterior, without noticing the lack of internal solutions to critical situations aggravated by lack of attention.

Third, the foreground can obscure the background.  It is annoying to struggle with companies that still do not understand what brings value to their clients (P) and they are stuck trying to attract with superficialities (F).  For example, it’s nice if an airport has extravagancies, but it is better if they are efficient so that passengers can avoid arriving several hours before a flight in order to make their way through the slowness of necessary airport formalities.

Fourth, it is sufficient to critically observe conversations in our organization to identify those who are proactive, helpful and aimed at improving something (P) and those who make mountains out of molehills, those who prioritize what is urgent at the expense of what is important (F). Endless, disorderly meetings are an unmistakable sign of the inclination to hunt flies without seeing planes of priorities.

Concentrated effort on crucial issues should not be confused with neglecting details that create customer loyalty and spur excitement to be part of a company. The details are just as strategic as the formation of a vision.

No one is exempt from suffering the brunt of "mental insects." As José Martí said, "A great man can also exasperate a fly."  Anyway, the one in my plane stopped bothering us. Is it that they capitulate when flying at high heights of proactive thinking, well focused, with a safe and consistent driving course? Is that how it is in your company?

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