Prepare for the Worst

By Ron Rosenberg

There's an old saying that you should "hope for the best but prepare for the worst." This is especially important whenever your actions have the potential to impact other people.

Take our flight back home from Australia earlier this week, for example. On our end, we planned everything as best as we could - we even pulled an "all-nighter" - staying awake through the night so we would be on Eastern Time when we arrived home in North Carolina.

We arrived at the airport bright and early (if a bit weary), giving ourselves plenty of time to check luggage, clear immigration, and pass through security. We were at the gate well in advance of the boarding time...and then the fun started.

When you travel a lot, you notice certain things; it's kind of a rhythm that lets you know that the flight is leaving on time. None of these were happening. I mentioned this to Lorie and said I had a bad feeling about this flight.

The full story of what happened would take more room than we have here in this article, and I'm going to wait until the airline in question responds to the long letter I'm sending them before I share it all with you.

The short story is this: a hydraulic problem required a replacement part which, as the day progressed, was either available in the airport, being brought in from another terminal, or being flown in from another city.

Ultimately, the airline ended up cancelling the flight, but only after all available flights on other airlines had already departed with hundreds of empty seats that could have been filled with the people on this flight.

What followed was even more frustrating - long lines, conflicting information, and clearly no one in charge to help us rebook flights, and get us overnight accommodations.

Look, things are going to go wrong, and, trust me, I want the airline to take its time when repairing a hydraulic system on a Boeing 777 that's about to fly 14 hours across an ocean. But at some point, this flight was going to be cancelled, and the people in charge were clearly unprepared for this event.

In your own business, there are times when inconvenient or even dangerous problems will arise. The time to plan for them is not when they're happening. Take a look at your own processes; see what could possibly go wrong. Then "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.