When a problem recurs multiple times, in a wide spectrum of venues, over a period of several years, you can generally conclude that the solutions you're implementing aren't resolving the root cause of the problem. Thousands of travelers are hoping that airports and airlines in the U.S. have identified and resolved the root cause behind a year when 24 percent of flights were delayed by at least 15 minutes. In fairness to the industry, that means 76 percent of flights got where they were supposed to get on time. (It's kind of a partly sunny or mostly cloudy scenario. . .)
One of the fundamental concepts for effective critical thinking and problem solving is clearly defining the problem. President Bush believes this problem is a demand for air services that exceeds supply. Reactions to his unprecedented efforts to ensure a better flow of flights and people during the Thanksgiving holiday confirm that we don't yet agree on the problem we're trying to fix.
- Air traffic controllers said they have too few people to handle the press of traffic.
- One industry consulting group blames the problem on mismanagement by the FAA.
- The pilots unions say the long-term measures are too drastic.
- Some travelers suspect that flight delays are an industry problem.
Last year a Southwest Airlines executive blogged that anytime you engage in something that involves the weather you just can't predict and manage all the variables. We all know he's right, but none of us likes being part of that 24 percent that isn't getting where we want to be when we want to be there. So it appears that more work needs to go into defining the problem if we want the FAA, airlines, airports, and passengers to embrace the solution.
It's a bit ironic that John Foster Dulles for whom Dulles International Airport is named told us, "The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year."