Securitor planners got a lesson in keeping their eye on the ball from the nation’s Top Guns. Simon Hoyle reports.

There
 are more similarities than it might seem between a successful F18 jet fighter
mission and running a financial planning business.

Phil Eldridge, a speaker for 
“Afterburner” – a group of past and present fighter pilots and instructors – 
told the Securitor 2010 National Convention in Adelaide that in both cases
success comes down to a concept called “flawless execution”.

Eldridge said
flawless execution is aimed at “ending up with as close to zero in the gap
between what you set out to do as a team, and what you actually achieve – day in,
day out, striving to improve your execution”.

“We do it using a discipline. The
discipline is called the Flawless Execution Model,” Eldridge said.

He said the
model has four steps: defining a plan; briefing individuals on specific roles
and expectations; executing the plan; and then, critically, a formal debrief – “a 
post-execution meeting, our review … to hash out what worked and what didn’t,
what was done and what wasn’t done out of our plan”.

The Flawless Execution
Model is how pilots plan missions, and it’s a process that can be used to
improve business performance.

He said one of the biggest obstacles pilots face
in effective execution is called “task saturation” – quite simply, having too
much to do all at once.

“‘Task overload’ is how you may know it: I’ve gone to
work today and I’ve got this much to do, and I’ve only got this much time and
resources to get it done,” Eldridge said.

“It’s part of modern-day business.

“I’m
task saturated from the second I step into my aeroplane, and it can really
affect our performance.

“Task saturation gets in the way of great performance, and
great execution, because it does one very unique thing: when we get overloaded
- when too many things happen – we become very susceptible to distractions.

“We 
call task saturation a silent killer, because it’s insidious. Most people do
not realise when they’re just starting to get distracted.”

Eldridge said task
saturation presents a significant management challenge, but it can be managed.

When 
task saturation arises, Eldridge says, “we train our pilots to focus on just a
small handful of instruments”.

“We need to focus on the things that will keep
us in control of our aircraft,” he said.

“The tool here is to recognise, 
pre-emptively, that everyone in your team at times gets task saturated. I’m 
sure you’ve felt it, and I can guarantee you’ve seen it in your employees and
your work colleagues. When people get task saturated, it’s insidious and they
 get easily distracted. When you see periods coming up when you and your team
are going to be overloaded, you can preempt it; make [sure] everyone stays
focused on what they need to stay focused on during that period.

“It might be,
stay focused on your clients. You can make it specific for your organisation. 
It could be making sure you’re valuing your advice correctly and appropriately.
 You’re an organisation that has heaps of measures.”

In a corporate setting,
particularly one like financial planning where there is a large amount of
 change looming, avoiding task saturation, and staying focused on what is
 important, is critical.

Neil Younger, head of dealer groups and Licensee Select
 for Securitor, told the convention that “one thing this industry can be assured 
of is that things change”.

“This time, the changes we will see across our businesses
 will be more significant than ever,” he said.

“You’ll not be able to apply,
 necessarily, old solutions to new problems. You’ll need to innovate.”

After the 
convention, Younger said there were “a few things that resonated really well
 for us” during the convention.

“It’s a growth period again for financial
planning businesses,” he says.

“You do pick up a mood or a sentiment out of the
 advisers; a lot of these guys had been bunkered down for six to 12 months with
 their clients, just telling them to keep the faith.

“They felt personally
 responsible, and it was quite draining.

“But now they are past that and into
 this next phase: we’ve survived a tough time, our clients are still with us…and 
now is the time to take more confidently our services to the market.”

“We’re
 getting clear air,” Younger says.

“The environment is starting to clean up around
advice, and there’s an opportunity for the quality of advice that we’ve always
 delivered to be recognised.

“That, coupled together with some key messages about 
professionalism, and the benefits that come out of being recognised as a
profession – all of these are changes that [support] what we have always held 
out as principles of doing business properly.

“Let’s take that enthusiasm and
 vigour out into growing our businesses again.”

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