Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
Commentary
1/17/2009
03:49 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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So How Many Employees Should Fly Together?

Writing about an IBM senior sales rep who survived the US Airways crash last week, my colleague Paul McDougall noted that some companies limit the number of employees who can travel together to minimize corporate risk in case of an accident. That reminded me of a funny exchange on that topic many years ago when I was young and foolish.

Writing about an IBM senior sales rep who survived the US Airways crash last week, my colleague Paul McDougall noted that some companies limit the number of employees who can travel together to minimize corporate risk in case of an accident. That reminded me of a funny exchange on that topic many years ago when I was young and foolish.For his news story about IBM employee Freida Muscatell, Paul talked with an IBM spokesman who said Freida is "doing well." The spokesman said Freida was the only IBM employee on the plane, but declined to comment on whether IBM has a policy limiting how many employees can travel together.

But I can say for sure that about 25 years ago, my company did not have any such policy -- or if it did, no one knew anything about it. So one Friday evening back in the early '80s, we were just putting the finishing touches on a big weekly issue that would be featured at the next week's Comdex show in Las Vegas.

On his way out, our then-CEO stopped in the editorial offices (there were about six of us) to congratulate us on the issue and ask which of us were going to Comdex. Four of us raised our hands, and one of us mentioned that we were lucky to all get seats on the only nonstop flight from New York to Vegas, leaving early the next morning.

Scrunching down his eyebrows, the CEO said, "You're all going on the same plane?" Heck, yeah, we said -- with all the work we've got a head of us tomorrow, we need to get out there. And, we said, with so many people going to Las Vegas, the only alternatives (back in those still-regulated days) were flights with 2 or 3 stops, and no way were any of us going to give up the nonstop for seats on a cross-country milk run.

"That's not acceptable," our CEO said. "If something happens to that plane, our company would be crippled. You guys figure it out among yourselves, but you can't all go on that same plane." He then wished us well and took off, and as soon as the door shut I said, "I don't know about you guys, but I'm not giving up my seat on that nonstop and I'd advise all of you to do the same."

After a bit more discussion, one of my otherwise clear-thinking colleagues said, "If we're all on that plane and something happens to it, we're gonna be in real trouble with Gerry." Well, with a set-up line like that, you can imagine some of our snappy retorts -- but in light of what went on with Flight 1549 last week, I don't find all of that as quite as funny as I used to.

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