If you are a frequent flight traveller, as I am for business reasons, you will be familiar with the standard safety announcements at the beginning of each flight. This is perhaps a piece of communication for which attention is most required and, yet, it is universally ignored, people invariably hiding behind the just-started-to-read newspaper.
You will know that, at some point, the attendant, or the recording, will say: ‘This is a non-smoking flight. Smoking is prohibited’. And just in case you are incubating some clever ideas: ‘Smoking is prohibited in the lavatories’. Don’t even think about it: ‘Lavatories are fitted with smoke detectors’. And if you are in a US flight: ‘Federal regulations (this is now serious) prohibit smoking’ and (very, very serious) ‘tempering with the smoke detectors will end in prosecution’. So, if you don’t want to end on a Guantanamo Bay experience following your business trip, or worse, your Orlando condo break, you know what to do and not to do.
And I wonder. Smoking flights ceased to exist in 1998. Why is that 16 year later I still get the warning? So, just curious, if ‘this is a non-smoking flight’, are they suggesting I could have a choice of a smoking one? Where is it?
Many processes and procedures (and, unfortunately their associated jobs) have become robotic. Customer services: ‘is there anything I can help you with?’, once you have bought the entire mobile phone system and are locked in for 24 months; Hotel front desk: ‘Did you have a good stay sir?’, after you have complained about bad heating, bad food and very, very thin walls; Supermarket check out: ‘Will that be all Sir?, once you have paid a fortune for two trolleys full of stuff, etc.
Could somebody in the Robot Resources Department of the Federal Aviation Authority and its cousins at the European Aviation Safety Agency (sorry to pick on you) review the script written in 1998? Or, is this simply maintained by the Tobacco Lobby? Just kidding!
In every organization there is a 1998 rule that is supposed to stop something, but the ‘something’ is still going. I know this from my years in pharmaceuticals where projects that had been formally stopped years ago, still had some people working on them years later. Every organization also needs to practice and spread a very disruptive idea : asking the question ‘why are we doing this?’ I use this often in or Viral Change programmes. And you’ll understand why…