As a pilot, the scariest flight video I’ve ever watched is a slow speed F-100 doing a “Sabre Dance”. Slow and low to the ground, trying to land, with the wings teetering on a stall, often the pilot does not walk away alive. A rare occurrence, but common and deadly enough to make any pilot respect the twenty feet above touchdown and the accompanying speed of a fighter aircraft. This dangerous phase of flight is partially due to what is known as the ‘region of reverse command’. It is a terrible place to fly, but almost as poor of a speed at which to run your business and life.
In simple terms, an aircraft in the region of reverse command is flying so slow that its wings are not producing enough lift. Because of the lack of lift, the pilot must pull the nose up to use the direct thrust of the engine as part of its lift vector. This increases the drag of the wing, causes airflow issues over the controls, and requires an excessive amount of thrust and fuel just to keep the aircraft flying. Barely above stall speed, with flight controls that are unresponsive and even unpredictable, the region of reverse command is never where a pilots wants to stay. It is wasteful and dangerous, going against the basic aircraft design. It is well below the optimum speed of the aircraft.
In business we hear terms like ‘economies of scale’, or ‘right-sizing’. In life, we talk about ‘going for it’, about making a decision and being committed to that decision, about avoiding timidity. In the aviation world, we talk about optimum cruise. Sometimes we don’t have a choice to live in that region of reverse command, but we have to always be looking to move past it to reach our optimum cruise.
With a number of startup businesses I’ve worked with, you struggle to safeguard the resources you have, treating every dollar as if it was your last. That made sense, but the goal can never be to hover in that slow speed development, or the resources you are trying to save will never amount to any forward progress. The business is harder to manage, employees are tougher to keep, and it will eventually stall. You have to find a way to reach optimum cruise.
Step one is to build a plan of what optimum cruise looks like. Like the aircraft designers, thinking through what the best speed for your business or personal life is key. Building a vision of how best to use your resources, how many resources you will need, and how you will get there will help you know what right looks like, and provide a picture of where to need to get to optimize your efforts.
Step two is to ensure you have the resources to push through that region of reverse command, that painful phase where it takes more resources to operate than the optimum speed, and arrive at a point where you can survive as a business. Do I have the right people? Do I have enough cash and equipment? Do I have the time and energy to get me there? Are my ideas enough to achieve the success I’ve envisioned? Many an aircraft was designed poorly, with lackluster flight controls, the ‘wrong lines’, or structurally insufficient to handle the rigors of flight. The same is true of many businesses and organizations. Similarly, while saving fuel and energy is always laudable, you have to be able to put forth enough to make the plan work.
Step three, as you enter motion, limit your focus to those necessary steps for success. Don’t take on more than you can handle, and don’t demand more of the organization or yourself than you are capable of giving. Like with the Sabre Dance, don’t force maneuvers or ask the aircraft to do things that the environment will not allow it to do. In the Sabre Dance, aileron inputs (the controls on the wings) were counter to what was expected in any other regime of flight because of the disturbed airflow. Your team may be designed for a certain level of performance, may not work together well when they are not in optimum cruise, so you have to demand less of them and simplify the instructions.
Step four is to put your nose down and move. Now that you have the energy, the vision of where you want to be, and the focus of the simple tasks to get you there, get after it and move forward. Yes, your engine could still fail. The structure could still be flawed and cause a catastrophic collapse and crash. The environment could change, bringing you winds and weather that you were not expecting, and ultimately doom your survival. The sooner you get to optimum cruise, however, the better your chances of success will be. And the less you will work just to maintain your vector.
To see the original Sabre Dance video, go to:
www.youtube.com search A USAF F-100C, Super Sabre, crashes during attempted emergency landing at Edward…HD Stock Footage