Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Communication and the Obvious Analogy


Another snowstorm was expected in the Northeast and we had to get back to Boston.  Following the weather feeds from NECN and, it seemed as though we were due to arrive right in the heart of it.  Fun.

To schedule an earlier flight?  To stay put on the American Airlines flight at 3:55?  To go later?  It wasn’t a clear-cut choice.  Maureen from the shuttle bus was also headed to Boston and she was on the 1:30.  Why not?  Let’s go for the earlier flight.

We were able to snag the final two seats on the 757 and settled in to our seats on a sunny and warm Miami afternoon.  At 1:25, the pilot came on and told us of a problem with the wing and the necessary repair.  That’s all he told us.  The flight attendants knew nothing else.  No estimate of severity.  No estimate of duration.  We sat and waited.  I looked at my Blackberry and saw that the storm was hitting; not a major one… but perhaps one that might impact air traffic and our flight?  Hope not.

A half hour later, the pilot told us the repair was finished and that the technicians were completing paperwork.  Great.  We’ll be off soon.  How long can the paperwork take?  Pretty long, we learned.  Another half hour later, the flight attendant picked up the mic to tell us that they simply had some paperwork to do and to hang tight.  We waited.

Eventually we took off… and it was an uneventful, smooth flight home.  As we descended into Boston, through the stormy, gray cloud cover and into the heart of the storm… we prepared for turbulence and the typical snowstorm landing.  We descended and descended and seemed to be nearing ground.  The aileron motors churned as the plane fought the wind and we knew we were close, despite the lack of ground lights and any indication of bearing or location.  And then: “This is your captain speaking.  We have not been cleared for landing and have been asked to continue to circle.”  And here’s the best part: “The crew will keep you informed of our progress and when we have been cleared.”  Best part because we heard nothing, other than one request to remain strapped to our seats, after that.  And so we circled and circled.  For a long, long time.  I felt badly for the infant who was screaming a few rows ahead of us.  After an hour, I felt worse for us.

Not knowing the progress was frustrating.  The flight attendants were nowhere to be found as they complied with the request to be buckled in and so we were left to speculate.  Were we “circling” as in a giant circle over Logan or were we 600 miles off shore?  Was the storm getting worse?  Better?  Any idea of how long this might last?

We heard nothing.  Even if the pilot came on the loudspeaker to tell us that he didn’t have an update but would be sure to let us know if he did… that would have helped.

It occurred to me that organizations who are going through significant changes, particularly stormy ones, need strong and frequent communication.  Even if you have to tell people you’re not sure about a few things.  Not hearing is frustrating.

It’s an obvious analogy.  But it’s good to remember this.

1 comment:

  1. Good post Rey. When there's a lack of information, people fill the void on their own... and it's always with worst case scenario stuff. How many thoughts of disaster were being conjured during that "black out" period? Many I'm sure. Give them the facts.