Drop Your Pin Before You Depart

This is not a new idea. But I hope this is either a reminder or an introduction.

As best I can tell this concept started with the 1:60 or 60:1 rule in aviation.

The rule is this – A pilot traveling just 60 miles will be off target one mile with only a 1-degree mistake in heading.

A few examples of this impact:

After 100 yards, you’d be off by 5.2 feet. Not huge, but noticeable.

  • After a mile, you’d be off by 92.2 feet. One degree is starting to make a difference.
  • After traveling from San Francisco to L.A., you’d be off by 6 miles.
  • If you were trying to get from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., you’d end up on the other side of Baltimore, 42.6 miles away.
  • Traveling around the globe from Washington, DC, you’d miss by 435 miles and end up in Boston.
  • In a rocket going to the moon, you’d be 4,169 miles off (nearly twice the diameter of the moon).
  • Going to the sun, you’d miss by over 1.6 million miles (nearly twice the diameter of the sun).
  • Traveling to the nearest star, you’d be off the course by over 441 billion miles (120 times the distance from the earth to Pluto, or 4,745 times the distance from Earth to the sun).

(shout out to White Hat Crew for this bulleted list)

We talked about this concept this week in our weekly company meeting – we call it SHIFT. That a simple misstep of just 1 degree can put your work WAY off the mark.

We talked about the trap of falling into focusing on that first step, first. Make it perfect. Make sure it’s not 1 degree off. But starting there won’t do you any good. It won’t prevent the 1-degree mistake.

The first thing you must do to prevent the 1-degree mistake is to accurately determine your destination.

I’m no pilot, so let’s paint this picture with something we are likely all familiar with – dropping a pin in maps on our smartphone. Most of us have had to drop a pin at some point get directions.

Where you drop that pin is the first step in getting where you want to go accurately.

In our work, this is critical, but not always easy. Sometimes we can fall into a routine – we’ve done this one thing 1,000 times, so who needs to drop the pin? We know how to get there.

But the 1,001st time, we set out on the same path to our end destination and never dropped the pin. We never made sure where we are going is 1) still there and 2) the path to get there hasn’t changed. And we end up way off the mark.

In our line of work, there are things we can do to help us know where to accurately drop the pin – keeping us on track to deliver our work that hits the mark. My hope is they resonate with you & your line of work as well.

  1. Who is the audience for this task/project?
    • The exact same task – with two different audiences – will often require two very different paths to reach a high-quality result.
  2. What is the objective of this task/project?
    • Is the goal to communicate a message, deliver a design, increase leads, decrease cost-per-customer, etc.?

It seems so simple. But if we skip over this step we are opening ourselves up for dropping our pin in the wrong place.

Wrong drop, wrong destination, wasted time, wasted effort.

Another important aspect of dropping the pin – Everyone on the team needs to know where the pin has been dropped. They need to know the audience & the objective.

Again – it seems so simple. But most of the 1-degree mistakes I’ve seen in my career have come from the entire team not knowing that one thing (and many times that falls on me…). So each team member attacks the task/project from their own perspective, based on having done that task before, resulting in missing the destination by sometimes just a mile, but sometimes by hundreds… (which means we are starting over from the beginning – not good.)

So we are all trying to make sure we know where we are dropping the pin here at Syrup. No one likes doing work that at the end won’t matter or won’t be used.

It starts with that pin drop.