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Performance vs. control

Posted: October 26, 2008 6:20 p.m.
Updated: December 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

I have a passion for flying.

There is something exhilarating and comforting in the freedom that comes from escaping the bonds of Earth and climbing to heights where the air is cleaner and one's perspective is broader.

I also relish the "yin-yang" nature of the freedom to maneuver in three dimensions balanced with the need to exercise discipline and respect for the laws of physics and aerodynamics to fly precisely and safely.

A pilot has to be particularly precise with aircraft control when challenged by adversity, such as landing at a strange field in poor weather (perhaps at night!) that may not afford a view of the runway until the aircraft is only 100 feet above the airfield.

To accomplish that feat, pilots have in the cockpit a host of instruments classified into two types: control instruments and performance instruments.

In essence, the control instruments indicate how much change a pilot is making in the aircraft (say in power setting or attitude adjustment) to effect a desired outcome (say an airspeed variation or altitude adjustment), which will be indicated in the performance instruments.

The lesson is simple - if you are not getting the performance you desire, you must make an adjustment in control. Careful monitoring of the instruments, sound analytical feedback, and well-timed corrective actions are essential to successful flying.

 These lessons can well be applied in business. Know which are your control instruments, and which are your performance instruments and how to use them.

For example, investing in a new product or hiring a new salesperson to increase sales would be a control action; the actual sales gain achieved would be a performance result.

The performance-versus-control approach can also be beneficially applied to the current state of the city in the face of an economic downturn.

An examination of the city's budget reveals that the major factors that contribute to the high quality-of-life performance we all enjoy in Santa Clarita are largely funded by property tax, sales tax, and development revenues collected by the city.

Yet those "control" factors are declining for the first time in years, presaging a coming loss in our quality-of-life "performance" unless we make a control change.

As a good steward (pilot) of our fair city, Mayor Bob Kellar recognizes the need to take early corrective action. He recently invited two dozen community leaders to discuss this issue over lunch.

While generally acknowledging that the city already has a host of good programs and many natural advantages for economic development, the group identified several means for better control, focusing on helping existing businesses and establishing new, diversified enterprises to reduce our vulnerability to the vagaries of general business cycles.

One of the principal suggestions for helping existing businesses was the call for reducing the bureaucratic process for obtaining permits for construction and infrastructure development.

Another was to support the College of the Canyons' Small Business Development Center's efforts to help prospective and existing small business owners start or expand their businesses.

Introducing more businesses to the benefits of our Economic Enterprise Zone and forming a local board of trade were also put forth for consideration, as well as the notion that a stronger coalition between local schools, colleges, the Valley Industrial Association, and the SCV Chamber of Commerce could make available to small businesses critically needed assistance that they otherwise could not afford.

Putting more emphasis on the "Shop Local" campaign while also attempting to attract visitors here for sports, tourism, and special events was also posited as a means to create greater revenues for existing businesses.

To develop a stronger economic base for the future, there was general support for the city's policy of pursuing a two-to-one ratio of new jobs created for every new residence constructed.

The need to continue to strengthen the main pillars of our local economy - manufacturing, aerospace, biotech/medical, technology and hospitality/entertainment - and to attract more diversified companies to immunize us against a major downturn in any given sector was also recognized.

Although no decisions were made at the luncheon, there was lots of value in the two-hour event.
It was interesting to observe how participants quickly got beyond the worrisome performance data and began to focus on constructive ways to improve our results, indicating we have a tremendous reserve of positive energy and aptitude in Santa Clarita to deal with such issues.

What's more, many of the initiatives discussed are already under way and merely need some tweaking in execution.

Another takeaway is that we cannot rely upon government policies alone for prosperity. Educators, business people, non-profits, government officials, and citizens must all work together for the common good.
Good communication, too, is important so that all entities are making rational decisions based on facts instead of hearsay, rumor or fear.

All in all, Mayor Kellar's economic development luncheon was a worthwhile effort that bolsters one's pride in the great city of Santa Clarita, and he deserves kudos for his initiative to exercise control over our future performance.

The mere act of getting community leaders together to focus on the city's economic gauges is an important first step to maintaining the high quality of life we all seek.

It is clear that we have the talent and the proper leadership to keep Santa Clarita flying high. Hopefully economic development discussions will continue with ever-larger segments of the public, and together we will overcome current economic challenges to achieve a better future, right here, right now!

Bill Kennedy lives in Valencia and is a principal in Wingspan Business Consulting. He serves on the Santa Clarita Planning Commission and as a member of several local boards. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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