One day, back when I was on a Special Forces team we were waiting on a dusty, dirty airfield waiting to be taken to another dusty, dirty airfield. The C-130 aircraft we were supposed to be on had broken down and we were waiting for a replacement to show up. We were passing time with the broken down airplane’s air crew. They were telling us about the Air Force’s Stand Down activities. According to them, the Air Force did a scheduled Stand Down at least once a year. The idea was to stop all operations for one day to review all safety incidents over the last year. They wanted to learn from the accidents and get better. It is a lot like doing an After Action Review (AAR).
One thing that always stuck in my mind from that conversation was that they told us that air crew had to listen to the inflight recordings from all the fatal crashes. It was important to review the details of the incidents. I also think another aspect was to reinforce how serious safety was to the air crews.
Reassess, Refit, and Rearm
Now in Army Special Forces, we didn’t do scheduled Stand Downs. We did Stand Downs if we had a serious safety incident or if a pattern was starting to develop. My old Sergeant Major always warned us to be alert if a training event or mission started to spin out of control. Improvising, adapting and overcoming is important but if so many things have changed that the new plan doesn’t resemble the original plan at all; you need to take a step back and reassess, refit and rearm. Too often we get into a frenzy of trying to fit square pegs in round holes that someone gets hurt or even killed.
Using a Stand Down
So how do you use this in your life and business? I have talked before about how AARs can help you get better. Just think of Stand Downs as bigger ones. A Stand Down should have a review of what took place during the particular time period and if it was on track with your intended purpose. It should also include a review of your purpose/mission/plan and see if that is what you really want of if you should think about moving in a different direction.
Photo Credit – Eagle Claw wrecks at Desert One April 1980