Federal law prohibits tampering with…

Today I boarded a Southwest plane from San Franciso International Airport bound for John Wayne in Orange County.  I’d just spent a couple of days in San Francisco and Silicon Valley and had my mind on the exciting things I’d seen in the world’s technology epicenter.

My mind was on the amazing, forward-looking things being done by my company and the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple. I was in 2013 and beyond.

Does this problem still exist?

It was jarring to hear the flight attendant break me from my technology reverie with the announcement we’ve all heard a thousand times (at least):

“Federal law prohibits tampering with, disabling, or destroying any smoke detector in an airplane lavatory; smoking in lavatories; and, when applicable, smoking in passenger compartments.”

I’m sure those of us who travel frequently can all recite this line from memory. Smoking on planes is a thing of the past…do we need to tell people not to punch other passengers? Not to steal items from the airline? Would anyone actually consider tampering with a lavatory smoke detector?

Maybe, but unless you’ve been cryogenically frozen since 1995 when the law was passed in the U.S., unlikely. And is the danger so great that it warrants repeating this before every flight? Hard to imagine.

My real issue was the message’s lack of value. Wasting people’s time with archaic and irrelevant information is a problem…it diverts attention from things that matter and helps justify tuning out.

Some companies are very careful and measured with what goes out internally and externally, and everyone is better off for it. Just like a 12-step problem, you first need to recognize the problem.

How much of what your company tells people is a wasted and/or archaic message? What have you done to fix this problem?


Tags: , ,

Categories: Process Management, Workplace Reality

Author:Tom Molyneux

A business process strategist with a focus on real-time event management.

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5 Comments on “Federal law prohibits tampering with…”

  1. Eric Jacobs
    September 22, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    Know how you feel, just wasted 30 seconds reading a trivial blog.

    • September 22, 2012 at 9:16 pm #


      • Eric
        September 23, 2012 at 10:34 am #

        Sorry! Tried to be funny but was just jerky.

  2. Paul Barrett
    September 24, 2012 at 12:53 am #

    Interesting. But the power of human beings to shut out the messages that are irrelevant to them cannot be overestimated. Using a parallel analogy, it amazes me how many people get stopped at security with liquids and gels larger than 100 ml in their hand baggage who are apparently unaware of the regulations. Where have they been?

    Let’s come back to the issue of humans shutting out irrelevant information. It all comes down to a little bit of the right information at the right time. We have to tune out the trivia to save ourselves from information overload. It’s a primitive instinct.

    The smoking ban on aircraft has been around so long that you would think by now the industry would have figured out a way to run that announcement in the lavatories at the point where the door is closed and locked – the right time to deliver it. Instead, we rely on check box mentality – we made the announcement so they must have known.

  3. John
    August 30, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    I work for an airline in Technical Publications and came across this blog during a search for a project I am working on, and I figured I would set the record straight while I was here.

    Yes, this does still happen. Had a friend of mine who is a Captain for a 121 carrier just have to report a passenger to the authorities at the destination for tampering with a lavatory smoke detector.

    And no I have not been cryogenically frozen since 1995.

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