Monday, February 9, 2009

Capt. Sully Sullenberger - The Three Minute Manager

Crisis Management Lessons From The Pilot Of USAirways Flight 1549

By David Miranda

It was a remarkable feat. Now known as the "Miracle on the Hudson".

Listening to Capt. Sullenberger with Katie Couric on 60 Minutes, one could only be amazed at the pilot's calm demeanor as he recounted details of the incident. Hearing his play-by-play and his interaction with air traffic control from the cockpit voice recorder, it was obvious he was a professional in control of life-or-death situation.

What is most amazing is that it all happened in a period of about three minutes. Bird strike, both engines fail, taking command of the plane, trying to restart the engines, communicating with air traffic control, determination that return to LaGuardia or to alternative airport was not feasible, gliding the plane over the George Washington Bridge, wanting to land near boats for best chance of rescue, keeping the nose up, wings level, announcing "Brace for impact" optimizing air speed and finally landing the plane on the Hudson River.

All this within three, yes three, minutes.

He said to Katie Couric - "I was sure I could do it" not in an arrogant tone, but one whose lifetime of training had prepared him to make all the right decisions.

What can we learn from Sully in crisis situations?

  • As the leader, he took immediate control.

  • He did not panic.

  • He did not call a meeting to get everyone's input.

  • He communicated to his team and stakeholders.

  • He quickly considered all his options and their potential consequences.

  • He made split-second decisions

  • He ensured that those he was responsible for were all safe and accounted for at his risk of his own peril.
Sully had three minutes to make the right decisions. Those of us in business that have more time to consider potential actions in a crisis should learn from him.