Friday, May 13, 2005

Keynote: John Foley, Lead Solo, Blue Angels

This was by far the most exciting Keynote of the day.

Firstly, whats the Blue Angels?

The Blue Angels is the most elite show troupe of the U.S. Navy and Marines. Only the best pilots earn the right to be Blue Angels and they tour the world for two years engaging in feats of amazing daring in a bid to encourage Americans to join the Navy and to demonstrate the excellence and prowess of the U.S. Navy and Marines to the world. John Foley used to be a blue angel and his talk centered around how the Blue Angels conducted themselves to ensure they could perform consistently at near to superhuman levels.

His main view was that there were four main activities required to perform at the amazing level of the Blue Angels as a team. These were
the Belief, The Brief, Contracts and the Debrief.

The Belief was the actual self confidence that you could do it. That came from merit and knowledge. The knowledge that you were the best in what you did, That each member in your team was the best at what he was supposed to do and that you as a team were FULLY PREPARED to take on the challenge at hand.

The Brief meant that the entire set of activities were planned to pin point accuracy in advance. The goal was clear and all activities were planned in reverse with clearly identifiable check points and during the course of the mission these were used to calibrate where people were to ensure no one was off track. The other important thing was that in case someone fell off track the leader would make the adjustments required in order to correct the course.

The milestones that were to be met were precise. E.g. The top right hand corner of the window of the green building. To give you an idea of how precise this was compare it to the speed of a F-16 traveling at 800mph!!

The next was Contracts. The respect for word. It was implicit that all members of the team would do what they said they would do. There was no need to shout out loud in case you were on track. Only if you were not so that others could adjust their own pace to ensure co-ordination. The leader was again the one responsible for ensuring that everyone was working co-ordinated.

Lastly, it was the debrief. The debrief was detailed. Twice or thrice as detailed as the brief. Everything was discussed. No matter how trivial and how embarrassing. It was best to discuss and to know that others had committed similar mistakes.

John's talk was awe-inspiring and to me esp. Fodder for thought. Very often in corporate life we read a lot of theory but only pay lip service to the principles. What if running a start-up was a matter of life and death maneuvers like the lives of the Blue Angels?

the fact is it is: As entrepreneurs we are privileged that others are trusting us to use their capital to build great businesses. We owe it to them and to ourselves to perform at the level of champions. Its a must to succeed.

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