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.”