Why do all manner of people succumb to the tyranny of the urgent and fail to make and follow a plan?
I have worked for a number of years in aviation. I have even been a helicopter crew chief and flown a helicopter as part of being a flight test engineer.
Aviation is one of the most scrutinized industries in existence. By the same token, semiconductors are one of the fastest moving industries, often with few written processes for the innovative part -- this is "tribal knowledge" on a grand scale. Few of the major players in the semiconductor industry have every process written and documented to the level of even a small company in a regulated industry. When executives from the semiconductor industry take on the added role of flying a corporate or private plane, interesting things tend to happen, occasionally with fatal results.
A corporate jet is, on average, about a quarter as safe as a scheduled airliner. A private small plane can be 1/40th as safe. Why is this? The leading cause of all air crashes is pilot error -- typically failure to be able to recall and execute the correct emergency procedure for any one of the myriad possible in-flight emergencies, or failure to follow and execute the proper procedure or pre-flight plan.
Having been a crew chief of a small helicopter, I can say that even experienced combat veteran pilots occasionally exhibit lapses in judgment. Things like checking the engine while refueling and then taking off without closing the engine door -- once again, failure to follow a pre-flight plan.
Silicon Valley executives make huge sums of money. However, no amount of money or influence over people will get one out of a bad situation when one does something like the following:
A Silicon Valley executive had become quite wealthy in the 1990s, gotten married, had a child, and gotten divorced. In the course of all this, she had obtained a pilot's license and a multi-engine turbine aircraft endorsement. At some point, this woman had decided to buy a house in a small city on the East Coast and commute via her private jet to Silicon Valley.
One snowy winter weekend night, an emergency came up in Silicon Valley. This executive threw every caution to the wind: Without even filing a flight plan, she and a companion fueled the plane and started to taxi in the near-blinding snow. They also did not bother to de-ice the aircraft. Due to the added weight of the snow and ice on the wings, the plane struck the trees about a quarter of a mile from the end of the runway after the takeoff. The end result was two totally unnecessary fatalities.
At a company at which I worked, one of my own technicians had a friend who -- without being endorsed for nighttime, multi-engine flight -- took another friend and two young ladies up for a night flight over the small city we all worked in. The plane hit the ground about a quarter of a mile short of the runway on landing. The result on this occasion was four fatalities and a crash site we could all see on a noontime walk at work. Very sobering.
With all these reminders of why caution is advised when performing critical safety work, why do all manner of people succumb to the tyranny of the urgent and fail to make and follow a plan? Is your semiconductor company ISO certified? Are any safety standards adhered to in designing safety critical products (IEC, FAA, CAA, FDA, SAE, etc.)?