HIVE Partners | Seven Planning Lessons Learned from the LaGuardia Airport Security Line
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21 Aug Seven Planning Lessons Learned from the LaGuardia Airport Security Line

I recently had the pleasure of flying Southwest Airlines with my college age daughter after moving her out of her NYU dorm for the summer break. As is always the case, I planned ahead and had a car service lined up to get us to LaGuardia with plenty of time to deal with Manhattan traffic and the possible long lines to check luggage and get through security.

When our car arrived five minutes early my daughter, in typical college age fashion, questioned the need to leave so early. I reminded her that we needed to have contingency time for the unexpected. With a slight roll of the eyes, she immediately commented that the Midtown Tunnel traffic was unusually backed up. A small but imperceptible smile came across my face. I had prepared for the unknown.

LESSON 1:  Plan ahead. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to be. Advance planning minimizes the need to react.

Regardless of this small amount of unexplainable traffic in the tunnel, we still arrived at the airport in less than 30 minutes. I wondered to myself that maybe we had left too early and she was correct all along. I still said nothing. We unloaded our luggage from the town car and used the skycap to check our bags. There was no wait at his counter. As the skycap lifted the bag, the handle broke.This required him reworking the luggage tag and me signing off that the bag was damaged prior to being loaded on the plane. A slight delay, yet not significant.

LESSON 2: Things break and when they do it may require additional paperwork before you can continue on the journey to reaching your goals.

After entering the terminal my daughter immediately reacted with surprise at the rather long security line. The line also seemed to be at a standstill.  This was unusual based on her past experiences. We found our place at the end of the line. Within minutes the line behind us grew exponentially.

LESSON 3:  Don’t assume that the year ahead will follow the same patterns that you have experienced in the past.  Unexpected events can slow you down from achieving your goals.  Sometimes you may not be able to pinpoint why the slowdown even took place.

What happened next was both the theater of life playing out in front of us, and the lessons we can learn by planning for the unknown. 10 minutes passed and the line had not moved. Other travelers walked by and asked where they could find the end of the line. We pointed them down the long corridor. Most took it in stride when they learned that the line was much further back than they had anticipated. A few got anxious and voiced concerns over potentially missing their flight. One woman in particular stood out. We overhead her tell the TSA agent that her flight was departing shortly. She could not miss her flight back to Detroit as it was the last flight of the day.

LESSON 4:  Prioritize. If you have to be somewhere and you have only one option to make it happen, don’t let scope creep or other deliverables compromise you from achieving your goal(s).

As this scene played out, another two women voiced a similar concern to the TSA agent. This brought the line to complete stop. The agent referred all three women to the end of line was and said they could not do anything. My daughter and I looked at each other and questioned why the Detroit bound traveler had cut it so close to her departure time. Maybe she had been lulled into believing the security line would be only 10 or 15 people deep based on similar experiences that my daughter shared.

LESSON 5: Understand that the world around you is dynamic and the other players have their own priorities and timelines. Yours is not always the most important. Plan to compromise along the way.

Finally, as the line made a move forward, we spied the Detroit traveler. She continued to plead her case to the TSA agent checking boarding passes. At one point, because she became so insistent, the entire line was held up while the first TSA agent and a second agent explained to the woman that nothing could be done. “If one person is allowed to cut in line to catch their flight, how would they control the flow of all the other travelers who also felt they were at risk of missing their flight?” The agent finally suggested talking to the airline. This did not dissuade the Detroit traveler from continuing to plead her case with louder and more insistent language.

As we worked our way through the queue, we noticed the other two women who were also anxious about missing their flight. They had moved to the priority boarding line. We overheard them telling someone they had gone back to the ticketing counter and persuaded their airline to change their boarding pass to priority to ensure they made their flight. The woman traveling to Detroit was still arguing with the TSA agents.

LESSON 6: When thrown an unanticipated curve ball negotiate an alternate solution that gets you where you need to be without impacting those around you that have their own agendas.

Suffice it to say, my daughter and I made it through security and had 20 minutes to spare before our flight began boarding. As our plane pulled away from the gate, we spotted another plane also pulling away from its gate. Was it the plane of the Detroit traveler? We wondered if she was on the flight or was she still complaining that the TSA agents and the airline had done her a grave injustice?

LESSON 7:  Be nice. You get more from those around you when you own your mistakes. Others will more likely work with you if they believe you to be humble.

Since my daughter is in college, I always look for opportunities to share lessons she may want to remember in her professional life once she is on her own.

To Recap: Seven Lessons for Planning Your Organization’s Journey

  • Plan ahead. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to be.  Advance planning minimizes the need to react.
  • Things break and when they do it may require additional paperwork before you can continue on the journey to your final destination.
  • Don’t assume that the year ahead will follow the same patterns that you have experienced in the past. Unexpected events can slow you down from getting to your destination. Sometimes you may not be able to pinpoint why the slowdown even took place.
  • Prioritize. If you have to be somewhere and you have only one option to make it happen, don’t let scope creep or other deliverables compromise you from achieving your goal(s).
  • Understand that the world around you is dynamic and the other players have their own priorities and timelines. Yours is not always the most important. Plan to compromise along the way.
  • When thrown an unanticipated curve ball negotiate an alternate solution that gets you where you need to be without impacting those around you that have their own agendas.
  • Be nice. You get more from those around you when you own your mistakes. Others will more likely work with you if they believe you to be humble.
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