Do planes have horns?
In the not so distant past, my niece's four-year old son, Hollis, was getting on a plane. Hollis is a frequent traveler. As usual, the energetic four-year old ran down the gangway in excitement. He just about ran into the captain's legs at the entrance to the plane. As he looked up at the uniformed woman, Hollis asked, "Do planes have horns?"
In all my global travels, I have never thought to make this inquiry. Do you have the same curiosity as a four-year old? For those of you who have spent time around children, either your own or someone else's, you know that children constantly ask questions. "Why?" becomes a common query. Children learn by asking questions, and yet as adults, we have forgotten how.
Have we discouraged others from asking? As a consultant, I ask clients "Why?" As we head to the end of the year and perform planning for the New Year, ask yourself and your company, "Why?"
Why are you doing something that way? Why can't you receive input from the whole team? Why have you always created the budget that way? Why can't you change? Why do have your current customers? Why are your competitors succeeding? There are thousands of these "Why" questions.
Once you have asked Why, then seek to find the answers to Who, What, When, Where and How? This is not the time for year-end planning, but year-end
questioning. Ask your employees, your customers, your suppliers and your alliance partners. Maybe you could receive tremendous input from your
employees' spouses or partners.
You are asking the people who love your company. Do not punish those asking the questions, but encourage them. Then take the answers and create a better company.
Today's world requires constant change. You must break what is not yet broken to make it stronger. Processes need to be reviewed, analyzed and reexamined. Question everything your company does, and then make it stronger next year.
The late Steve Jobs frequently wanted to know how to replace one product with a new, drastically improved one that would set new levels of demand. He was never afraid to shoot holes in what anyone thought about a problem or product.
I hope that you find asking questions needs to be done more than once a year. With encouragement, it becomes a way of life, a part of your company's culture. Just make sure it is not a grilling.
Albert Einstein said, "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."
For those of you who haven't already googled the answer to Hollis' question, yes, planes do to have horns. Horns are used by the pilot to get the attention of the ground crew. Do they make a loud, deep beep? I don't know. I think it would be fun to honk at the unsuspecting ground crew on a dark night, but I am sure that being a practical joker is strongly discouraged.
As you plan for the New Year, start asking questions. Be passionately curious, like Hollis, Steve or Albert. Make a better company. If you can't ask the questions, get someone who can.