The Lesson of the Zax

By Chris Crouch

As I sit down to write my article this week, all non-essential people working for the federal government are on furlough. All, that is, except for the most non-essential of all government employees – our Washington politicians.

When I was involved with Naval Aviation and stationed at Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico, we routinely cranked up rickety old airplanes and flew them around between the islands stretching from the southern tip of Florida to the northern coast of South America. Since we didn’t know any better and were too young and dumb to figure it out on our own, we would land the plane and head straight to the nearest island bar, have a few drinks, have a few more, maybe get a little bit of sleep and get up early the next morning and repeat the process. Rules, guidelines and enforcement governing such activities were, shall we say, a bit more relaxed back then. It was similar to the "Mad Men" era, when drinking excessively at inappropriate times was considered perfectly appropriate.

Anyhow, looking back I wonder how we survived. In our young and seemingly bulletproof world, we even joked about flying around with serious hangovers in airplanes built by the lowest bidders.

Back to the non-essential government workers – here is another of our favorite jokes. To fully appreciate this joke, you need to know that anything in a military airplane that might move or fly about in the cabin when we experienced turbulence was wired in place. For example, the electronic gear used for navigation and communication was placed in secure racks and wired in place with thin pliable wires. We called this process safety wiring. When we encountered a useless or clueless person, we would joke that they could easily be replaced by a micro-switch safety-wired in the off position. It was a fine example of Naval aviation humor and ranked among the highest of insults to the recipient.

So, I don’t know where we will be terms of the gridlock next week when this article is published. However, it appears at this point we could replace our entire legislative body, and perhaps much of the executive branch of our government, with a micro-switch safety-wired in the off position.

I usually like to tell a little story in this column that outlines a specific problem and then offer a simple solution. However, I don't know what I would tell all these intransigent folks in D.C. I guess the only thing I can think of at this point is to suggest they read Dr. Seuss’ story about the Zax and what happens when a stubborn “north-going Zax” meets an equally stubborn “south-going Zax.”

Since this is a publication focused on business issues and not government issues, that is my suggestion for the week. Find a copy of the book “The Sneetches and Other Stories” (or look it up online) and read about what happens when a couple of stubborn Zaxes meet. And then don’t allow that to happen in your business.

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.