Taking off from a Short Runway

SANTA ANA, CA - NOVEMBER, 23, 2011: A U.S. Airways airplane flies over the 405 freeway as it approaches it's landing at John Wayne Airport in Orange County as travelers make their way to their destinations in time to celebrate Thanksgiving. ( Allen J. Schaben  / Los Angeles Times)

John Wayne airport in Santa Ana, California has a rather unique set of takeoff requirements. Its runway, at 5,701 feet, is one of the shortest among commercial airports in the US. A Boeing 757 is the largest airplane that can be accommodated. It also has very strict noise requirements. My cousin lives next door in quiet Irvine, and told me that airplanes must take off at full throttle, shooting off the runway like a rocket, then quickly back down the engines to keep quiet.

This made me think of some of the companies with whom I’ve worked. Many were startups, either bootstrapping themselves or anemically funded with venture capital. Others were reasonably mature, but lacked sufficient capitalization to execute on their strategy effectively.

A major issue with these types of companies is that they have lofty goals, but want everything under the sun in a short time frame. And their budgets are limited. The classical project management response to this situation is, “you can have good, fast, and cheap. Pick two.” I hate this answer, and it reeks of in-the-box thinking.

Agile software development works perfectly with short runways. You can get a high quality result in a short time frame. You can get the airplane off the ground before you run out of runway. You just have to change your thinking a bit. Focus on what you need, not what you want. I’ve found these are often not the same things.

You will likely need some coaching to get comfortable with this approach. I help my clients evaluate their strategic goals and tactical objectives, formulating a launch plan that can get the proverbial plane off the ground with runway to spare.

© 2015 by Mark Richman. All Rights Reserved.


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