Farhad Moshiri and the “two degrees of trim” principle

Some years ago I had the opportunity to conduct some training with a retiring military instructor pilot. He was transitioning to the private sector, targeting a job at a large freight company, but on that day I was “teaching” him. It was a bit absurd, a man of his experience and credentials submitting to my inexperience and instruction, but his experience was matched in equal measure by wisdom and humility. And unsurprisingly, in the end it was him who was teaching me; and what I remember him teaching me was the “two degrees of trim*” principle.

What I learned that day was that when pilots exchange the flight controls and the non-flying pilot, the one who was reading a book or daydreaming, staring out the window, takes over the aircraft, this pilot usually trims the aircraft controls two degrees.

Before backing out that correction.

You see, the flight controls were already set well enough and little change was needed.

I learned this because I also made the same mistake. Even though I was fairly competent at my job, I had not been doing it at that moment—he had been flying—and I wanted to exert my control over the situation and so I did by adjusting the trim. He taught me this was human nature, maybe a flaw, or maybe not, and that even experienced military flight crews made the same mistakes as naïve flight instructors.

And the mistake itself is not really a problem, if promptly recognized and corrected.

People overreact. There are few who resist and keep calm in times of trouble, but by and large people overreact. Fight or flight response leaves little space for serenely measuring the moment and evaluating which choice will be most likely to present your preferred outcome. Actions must be quick, often extreme, and correct. But some situations don’t require overreaction. And sometimes some people, usually those with great experience, or wisdom, don’t overreact.

Experience teaches you recognition of your own limitations, and predicts the mistakes you are likely to make. So you might be aware of your chances to exert undue force, to overreact, whether taking over the flight controls or, possibly, taking the reins of a football club that has existed for 138 years.

Because this is, of course, about Farhad Moshiri.

I can’t guess whether Moshiri is a wise person. He’s been extremely successful in business, but wisdom and success don’t always go hand in hand. But it appears that he has been (relatively) slow in exerting his power over his new empire. In fact, to some it has seemed as though he lacked a plan, or the ability to execute his plan, in these early days of his tenure.

And that’s entirely possible.

Or he could be carefully and cautiously executing a grand scheme, while attempting not to disrupt the stasis of a going concern.

At least that’s maybe how you’d want to conduct a takeover. But many businessmen (and women) want to come in, guns-a-blazing, and make rapid changes to the organisation and direction of the club. And sometimes that’s very much needed. A club in free-fall, much like an air plane in free-fall, needs drastic and incisive response from those at the controls.

Too often successful businessmen come into a sport as a new venture and assume that what worked in their prior field will work in their new endeavours in sport. Too frequently they realise that their changes don’t help. Sometimes their changes hurt the club. A wise approach might be to take the controls and, only after careful observation, make changes at the appropriate time to redirect the business.

I think we can all agree that Everton Football Club has for some time needed a change in direction. Maybe not a drastic change, but at least up—in the table—compared to where the club has been comfortably positioned, in its mid-table obscurity, for far too long.

And West as well—from what I can tell Blues seem to agree that a move to Bramley Moore Dock is the right move for the club, even if you are the sort who won’t believe it’s going to happen until you see printed match day tickets in your hands that don’t direct you to your prior seats at Goodison Park.

And so if Moshiri has begun to exert his influence over the club, which seems to be the case, it makes sense not to embark immediately in a new direction but to carefully run through his checklist, examining the health of the business much like a pilot who turns from his book, or daydream, to take controls and scan through the instruments to get a fresh appraisal of the status of his flight.

I don’t know what Moshiri’s checklist looks like, but I’m imagining it looks something like this:

Heading… check

Airspeed… negative
[Moshiri was swift to act when he didn’t feel that Martinez… then Koeman… then Allardyce was the correct manager to lead the club forward]

Destination… negative
[I can’t say whether Walton Hall Park was dead prior to Moshiri’s arrival, but it didn’t seem to take long for him to identify a new destination]

Fuel… negative
[Some remain skeptical, but in any case no third party has a claim to EFC revenues as a result of any lingering debt, which is a better position that before Moshiri joined]

Approach… cleared for approach

And that’s all we know.

No clearance to land (yet). No added silverware (yet). We still have much to learn about whether Moshiri is capable to pilot Everton back to the success that supporters rightfully want and crave.

There are no small number who doubt his actions and ability to lead the club forward. And it’s entirely possible that all Moshiri has done are the few things he is capable of doing, a financial tinkering to increase value, but that leading the club forward is beyond the measure of his means. That’s certainly a possibility. And it’s entirely possible as well that what for Bill Kenwright’s restraint, Moshiri would have already made changes to the club that proved dangerous, if not devastating. As supporters, speculation rightfully persists because the club’s communication is neither clear nor frequent; and because past pursuits, of stadia specifically, have been unfruitful in large measure.

But I do believe Moshiri is in control, making careful adjustments to the club to reach the destination he has in mind, because the evidence seems to suggest so. And it’s entirely possible that these maneuvers are exquisitely planned, and not accidental. And maybe the destination is clear, but we supporters, looking from the narrow view afforded by our small, round windows, have little sense of it yet, only memories of past success or, for those too young or new in supporting the club, their own daydreams of Everton silverware.

We’ve just seen this week several actions that were obviously months in the making. Whether these, and the other past and future actions led by Moshiri, made with careful plans, executed in the proper sequence, will provide the success we desire to see for our men wearing blue at Goodison (or Bramley Moore) remains to be seen. Because while calmness in executing decisions suggests control, whether he also has the vision to create a better future for the club, and the ability to see it through, remains to be seen by supporters.

But when that day arrives, it will be our turn to overreact, and rightfully so. And if he proves his mettle in delivering us to Destination Success, then I think Farhad will be right there, leading us as well in the overreaction, and rightfully so.

*Trim Tab: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trim_tab

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