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Aviate, Navigate, Communicate

March 18, 2008

By Michael B. Tatham
President, The Tatham Group

Growing up, I had great difficulty focusing in the classroom, which made for a very frustrating experience for both me and for my teachers. When I brought these frustrations home, my mother would refer to me as ‘a tempest brewing in a teapot’.

After years of bouncing from one school to another, eventually I was told I had a learning difference. I resented this label because it conjured an image of weakness. Although my father encouraged me to make lemonade out of lemons, at such a young age I had no idea how to turn a weakness into a strength.

Although at the time I didn’t know much about what it meant to have a learning difference, I did know that the education system, whose structures were aimed at the ‘average student’, were a factor in impeding my success. To overcome this, I realized I would have to be proactive about my education. That’s when I began to develop my own processes for learning.

Over the years, I’ve found that the discipline and structure of process thinking has enabled me to systematically work through complex problems. It has allowed me to focus and to be more open-minded to learning in general. Now, close friends ask what was my motivation. The simple answer is that I am passionate about applying common sense to any process: I document, follow, redesign and improve my processes until they achieve the desired goal. In following these basic rules, I consistently obtain sustainable outcomes.

It wasn’t until I stepped into the world of aviation that the concept of process sustainability really hit home. I believe aviation is close to my father’s heart – and to mine – because it reinforces the need to follow a well-designed process. When I began learning how to fly a plane, I found that process thinking is absolutely crucial to a successful flight. Without a checklist, a pilot is compromising passenger safety and risks catastrophic consequences. Learning this lesson also allowed me to understand what other pilots meant when they said ‘with a good approach comes a good landing’.

Persistence, determination and good processes have allowed me to turn my weakness into a strength. Just as my father would say, “Aviate, navigate, communicate.” As an aspiring pilot and president of The Tatham Group, I’m confident that our systematic method will teach companies to consistently achieve sustainable results and culture change.