Friday, 25 November 2022

Use Common Sense If A Company Rule Doesn’t! What Else Elon Musk Expects From Employees To Increase Productivity?

Here are the 6 productivity principles that Elon Musk expects from people working at Tesla: 

1) Avoid large meetings

Large meetings waste valuable time and energy.
- They discourage debate
- People are more guarded than open
- There’s not enough time for everyone to contribute
Don’t schedule large meetings unless you’re certain they provide value to everyone.

2) Leave a meeting if you’re not contributing

If a meeting doesn’t require your:
- Input
- Value
- Decisions
Your presence is useless.
It’s not rude to leave a meeting.
But it’s rude to waste people’s time.

3) Forget the chain of command

Communicate with colleagues directly.
Not through supervisors or managers.
Fast communicators make fast decisions.
Fast decisions = competitive advantage.

4) Be clear, not clever

Avoid nonsense words and technical jargon.
It slows down communication.
Choose words that are:
- Concise
- To the point
- Easy to understand
Don’t sound smart. Be efficient.

5) Ditch frequent meetings

There’s no better way to waste everyone’s time.
Use meetings to:
- Collaborate
- Attack issues head-on
- Solve urgent problems
But once you resolve the issue, frequent meetings are no longer necessary.
You can resolve most issues without a meeting.
Instead of meetings:
- Send a text
- Send an email
- Communicate on a discord or slack channel
Don’t interrupt your team’s workflow if it’s unnecessary.

6) Use common sense

If a company rule doesn’t:
- Make sense
- Contribute to progress
- Apply to your specific situation
Avoid following the rule with your eyes closed.
Don’t follow rules. Follow principles. 


The question is how many people feel free to ask questions without having to think about how those decisions are made and who made them? It's up to leaders to set the tone.



Thursday, 27 October 2022

What Is It That Prevents Us From Using the Practical Wisdom While Attempting To Solve the Real World Problems?

Aristotle told us that practical  wisdom is the combination of moral will and moral skill.

The question is, what is it that prevents us from using the practical wisdom while attempting to solve the real-world problems?

Barry Shwartz explains:

Real-world problems are often ambiguous and ill-defined and the context is always changing. 

A wise person is like a jazz musician - using the notes on the page, but dancing around them, inventing combinations that are appropriate for the situation and the people at hand.

A wise person knows how to use these moral skills in the service of the right aims - to serve other people, not to manipulate other people. And finally, perhaps most important, a wise person is made, not born.

Wisdom depends on experience, and not just any experience. You need the time to get to know the people that you're serving.

You need permission to be allowed to improvise, try new things, occasionally to fail and to learn from your failures. And you need to be mentored by wise teachers.

Taken from Barry Schwartz's inspirational talk "Our loss of wisdom"

Navigating the Leadership Fog

What happens when a company (think airlines!) need to expand fast but there are lots of moving parts not easy to put together?

Strategic thinkers (VPs and below) may be wondering if there is a corporate strategy. They see plans and priorities and know that isn’t a strategy.

The get-it-done thinkers (at all levels) may be thinking “leadership just keeps changing priorities” sensing that something is off. 

What would you do as a leader?

As always, John Cutler provides valuable insights.

Here is his full article:


I met recently with a product leader friend. For heavy conversations I prepare notes. His team (~400 in product/engineering/design) is experiencing a lot of growth, but as with many companies in 2022 there are a lot of moving parts. I present this with a specific set of “to dos”, but nothing here is easy. Sharing here in case people find this helpful.


What do I think is going on?

The strategic thinkers in your company (VPs and below) are wondering if there is a corporate strategy. They see plans and priorities and know that isn’t a strategy.

  1. Some are trying to fill what they see as the void
  2. Some are checking out (going through the motions)
  3. Some are in blame mode…blaming leaders, each other
  4. Some are leaving
The get-it-done thinkers (at all levels) are thinking “leadership just keeps changing priorities”. They sense something is off. They see plans and priorities and think “great, now we have alignment!” But anyone who has been there for a while is skeptical.

  1. Some of them are trying to fill a void in terms of planning
  2. Some are checking out (going through the motions)
  3. Some are in blame mode…blaming leaders, each other
  4. Some are leaving
Meanwhile you are feeling the pressure for the perfect strategy, and the perfect plan. You feel the pressure from the get-it-done thinkers for a plan. You feel the pressure from the strategic thinkers for a strategy. You’re also fighting fires while the X.4s leave, and the X.3s blame, and people are wondering why the X.2s have no sense of urgency. This is NOT EASY.

  1. You don’t have time to think strategically
  2. You don’t want to just “cook up” a strategy, or plans
  3. You’re spending time on fires

So what should you do?

First is acknowledge that the strategic thinkers and get-it-done thinkers have similar/different needs

  1. Both want coherence, but different types of coherence
  2. The strategic thinkers want a sense of (and contribute to) the current thinking
  3. The get-it-done thinkers want a sense of the stable problems they can solve

Then acknowledge that the big problem is
  1. Degrading trust levels
  2. Degrading psychological safety levels
  3. Good people leaving
These problems are far more dangerous than you think. The “fog” means you can’t tell what is happening exactly. You can’t trust your gut.

You have three priorities
    1. Less blame game
    2. Relieve people of filling the void
    3. Check in with people
    4. Show not tell: be vulnerable, be transparent

  1. Set aside / prioritize time for a “good enough”...
    1. Strategy (even if there’s a lot to learn)
    2. Some fairly stable problems to solve
  2. Deploying those things and creating cadence and predictability

Sunday, 25 September 2022

Questioning The Role of Chief Marketing Officer

Why does the role of the Chief Marketing Officer at a big company appear to be an impossible job? Yet another food for thought by Seth Godin:

"The typical duration of a CMO is 18 months because once the CEO realizes that hype for money can’t solve their problems, they get restless.

The problem lies in what people think “marketing” is.

Marketing isn’t paying for ads, changing the logo or building a social media presence.

Marketing is product design, customer service, pricing, customer delight and creating and living a remarkable story. Marketing is creating the conditions for the network effect.

And yet, the typical CMO isn’t in charge of ANY of those things.

No wonder it’s frustrating. You thought you were getting a marketer, but all you did was hire someone to make a commotion on social media.

The words matter. If you are hiring someone to be in charge of promotion, say so. But if you want someone to be in charge of marketing, have them be in charge of all of it. If it touches the market, it’s marketing."

The question is does it really have to be an impossible job?

As for the airlines, isn't it high time to create tighter connections between strategic, commercial, and operational sides of business aimed at bettering service quality so that marketing can create conditions for the network effect.

Saturday, 20 August 2022

Can Social Media Help Airlines Better Understand Passenger Experience?

You may remember the story about a passenger, a professional musician Dave Carroll who was denied  compensation for his broken guitar. He put in some effort to make his case published on social networks and managed to artfully break the seemingly unbreakable wall of denial set by the airline's Customer Service.

Back in 2008, Dave had his guitar destroyed by United Airlines baggage handlers and was denied compensation. After receiving a final ‘no’ eight months later, he decided to respond by switching to what he was best at - music. It took him a few months to write a song about his experience with Customer Service representatives and post it on YouTube. It immediately went viral and within four days United Airlines' stock price plunged by 10 per cent, costing shareholders $180 million. Not long after, it has become one of the most watched YouTube videos

The result: United relented, claiming that the company will use the video internally as a unique learning and training opportunity. The massive publicity finally triggered the compensation offer, which was on Dave’s request donated to the charity. 

He later wrote a book ‘United Breaks Guitars’ describing how the power of one voice can make an impact on companies' relationships with customers in the age of social media. Throughout the business world, people began to realise that "efficient" but inhuman customer-service policies had an unseen cost—brand destruction by frustrated, creative, and socially connected customers.

Obviously, airlines don’t take seriously enough the role of social media and other technology platforms in tilting the balance of power towards passengers. Poor passenger experiences can be transmitted quickly around the world, and as we could see, hurting the brand reputation, causing the rise in costs and revenue shortfalls.

I wonder if too-big-to-fail airlines can make a cultural shift by humanising strategies and becoming big-enough-to-care about employees and passengers. Because strategy ultimately deals with people.

I remain an optimist and have dedicated my work to making it possible. Step by step.

United Breaks Guitars

Thursday, 4 August 2022

It's Time To Rethink The Airline Pricing Mechanism

Traditional airline pricing is mostly associated with stationary class differentiation based mainly on seat comfort, availability of food service, baggage allowances, or flight rescheduling. 

They don’t take into account the growing disruptiveness of air travel, especially at busiest airports.

Today, even the highest-fare passengers experience long delays, lose connections, queue at various stages of their journey, spend time and extra money while waiting for the departure of their delayed flight, or have to rearrange their travel. Often, they are not prioritised as expected, and getting help during and after flight cancellations is not guaranteed.  

And, with usually high load factors, chances to rebook to the next flight are becoming slimmer. 

While insurance policies may absorb some of the costs of poor experience, they cannot compensate for the frustration, stress, anger, and other kinds of emotions of fragile, robust, and even antifragile passengers associated with unexpectedly long and poorly handled interruptions to their journeys.  

Disruptions are a classless experience. There will be much more of them in the foreseeable future considering the state of the industry and how airlines are organised and managed. 

Isn’t it time to rethink the pricing policies and introduce more flexibility in passenger choices when their travel plans are significantly changed against their will?  

These could be things like: you pay a bit more for making sure that flight delays longer than xx hours will be automatically processed (rather than entering a messy procedure for compensation claims with uncertain outcome). 

Or, what about an option to stay longer in a city in which you experienced flight cancellation and reschedule your flight to a day and time that suits both you and the airline. 

Or, why not offering a discount to passengers that are flexible about their return date or even airport and be in a win-win situation. 

There are many more options that, apart from reducing the amount of stress and getting some more space for other passengers at critical times airlines can get more return passengers and count on their loyalty. A great way to  boost revenue.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Why pushing up salaries won't help resolve problems with airline crew shortages

Attracting pilots by pushing up salaries and speeding up training is good, but won’t solve the problems deeply rooted in unworkable strategies. This generic industry issue is echoed in American Airlines’ pilot union plea to its president to ensure that potential new hire pilots are informed that ‘scheduling uncertainties and reassignments will affect their quality of life if they decide to accept a flying position at American Airlines’.   

It seems that major airlines still don’t get it that pilot shortage is mostly about unsustainable network models, business metrics, and consequently culture where pilots and employees are being seen as cost centres.

Getting out of these legacy traps assumes embracing a fresh approach to decision making. It is about collective engagement in resolving the systemic pain points by connecting strategy and operations and keeping them aligned with the core values.

 You can explore some “how” answers here:

Or, by visiting:

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

It takes brave leadership to get an airline or an airport out of crisis. Leaders will have to learn new skills and apply new tools to make it happen

"In a competitive market, if you do the work to lower your price by 10%, your market share grows.

If you dig in deep, analyse, reengineer and make thoughtful changes, you can lower your price another 10%. This leads to an even bigger jump in market share.

The third time (or maybe the fourth, or even before then), you only achieve a 10% savings by cutting safety, or quality, or reliability. You cut corners, certainly.

The last 10% costs your workers the chance to make a decent living, it costs your suppliers the opportunity to treat their people with dignity, and it costs you your reputation. 

The last 10% isn't worth it. We're not going to remember how cheap you were. We're going to remember that you let us down."

This quote is taken from Seth Godin's blog post ‘The tragedy of the last 10%’, as it touches on the core issues of the competitive, value-destroying race for growth in the airline industry. Most airlines and airports have been operating within this zone for quite some time. 

At surface level, it may look as though airlines dig deep, analyse, reengineer and make thoughtful changes, but they don't do it in the right way. During the process, they cut corners on quality, reliability, and potentially safety - things that cannot be quantified. 

Too much time and money is wasted because airline leaders and strategists are still the legacy thinkers. They approach nonlinear reality with a linear mindset - so much so that they wilfully ignore the turning point from which flying more makes things worse for airlines and passengers, unaware of its wider consequences. 



Airlines are trapped in a system that has no future and need to find the way out themselves. In such a complex and dynamic industry, looking at disruptions as strategic misalignment between plans and reality is a natural way forward, even if it may be uncomfortable for some. If approached wisely, disruptions can reveal systemic pain points that should be taken as a call for change. 

It may be hard to accept the truth about where your airline is now and where it is going to be in six months or in a year from now if you continue to do what you have always done. Considering the critical state of the industry, some things have to change sooner rather than later. Major European airlines operating from busiest hub airports are exposed to the highest risk of failure.  

The Dutch government was the first to take precautionary steps. They made a bold move by capping the number of flights from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport for 12% compared to pre-pandemic level. 

It remains to be seen if other critically congested airports, in particular Heathrow and Gatwick will follow suit intentionally, or will be forced to do so to stay in the game where care for employees, passengers, and for the nearby environment will take a more significant role. 

On the airline side, these ideas may look strange from the perspective of the protectors of the status quo, those still assured that passengers will be tempted to fly if offered the rock bottom prices in exchange for undignified and costly travel experience. And consequently, that they can indefinitely pack more flights at congested airports, unconcerned about the high levels of air and noise pollution they spread around the densely populated areas day after day.

A modern strategy that works will require leaders to learn new skills and apply new tools. Among them, how to fine-tune strategy by learning from disruptions which is at the core of my work .

Switching the mindset from being too-big-to-fail to becoming creators of too-good-to-fail is what the air travel industry needs.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

What Overambitious Airline Planning Has To Do With Crew Shortages And What Can Be Done To Make Things Better

The real reasons behind crew shortages we have been seeing over the last few months run much deeper than those associated with the pandemic. In what follows, we will focus on a fundamentally important but commonly misunderstood root cause of crewing problems: the disconnect between strategy and operations.

Indeed, much has been written and said about this disconnect, but rarely - if ever - about how it is experienced by crew members.  

The following real-life story will get you closer to understanding the causes of this disconnect from a crewing perspective, as well as its consequences on the business and its core values.

Following the strategic decision to expand to new destinations and outnumber competitors, the airline operating an extensive international network with 9 aircraft types and versions and multiple crew bases started to experience a number of hard-to-explain operational issues. Crewing rapidly became the most frequently reported reason for flight disruptions. At the height of peak season, operational disruptions reached a critical level. Flight cancellations, long delays and numerous passenger complaints attracted lots of media attention.

Despite the best efforts of people on the operational side, there were no signs of improvement. From the overall planning perspective, what was happening made little sense - the average number of crew members per aircraft was consistently higher compared to main competitors. The director of Crew Planning was asked for a detailed explanation. Knowing that people involved in crew planning and rostering were experienced professionals doing their best to cope with the influx of schedule changes, he initiated a review aimed at identifying the true reasons behind these problems.

The analysis revealed a chaotic state in the Crewing Department where staff were barely able to cope with the volume of operational changes they faced. The following are some of the findings based on this analysis:

People in the Operations Control Centre, and in particular crewing, were struggling to cope with constant schedule changes. Routes added to already highly utilised aircraft increased the pressure. This appeared to be both the cause and also the consequence of numerous other problems, especially those associated with unscheduled aircraft maintenance and ground operations in the hands of outsourced service providers. The impact on passengers raised the highest concerns.

Here are a few facts to give a sense of the true scale of the problem:

·         Flying times of flight deck crew were well below legal maximums (53% of maximum utilisation)

·         Crew duty times were closer to legal maximums than flying times (70 % of maximum utilisation for flight deck crew and 61% for cabin crew) 

·         60% of duty times for flight deck crew and slightly less for cabin crew were spent on the ground

·         Out-of-base activities on long-haul routes were mostly related to crew days off (55% of total out-of-base activities), and standby duties (35% of total), with 67% of these activities located at two airports on long haul routes

·         Deadhead and positioning activities increased dramatically, resulting in high cost of air and ground crew transfer and hotel accommodation.

As a consequence, crew shortages caused delays on 42 flights within one month. Average flight delay times reached 5 hours, the longest being 20 hours. On several busiest routes, fewer than 30% of flights operated on time.

Further insights revealed that delays and cancellations reported as caused by crew were often a consequence of unscheduled aircraft maintenance - mostly due to insufficient stocks of spare parts (following cost cutting measures), shortened schedule buffers and frequent technology glitches.

It became obvious that the nature of the problem stretched outside of the crew planning department. One of the pilots commented on the findings: 

“If you don't have enough crew members to cover for disruptions, flights and passengers are going to be disrupted. To make this even clearer: aircrew do not cause disruptions. Management needs to take responsibility. It looks like we are being punished for mistakes made at the top. They’d better come and see what’s happening here.”

In search for a solution, attempts were made to engage other areas of the business - discouraging outcomes. People in the Scheduling Department were too busy with numerous other issues and tried to avoid ‘unnecessary’ work. Similarly preoccupied with their own problems, people from Network Planning were reluctant to get involved in ‘crewing problems’ (not in their job description), while airline strategists were focused on ensuring further expansion without getting bogged down in ‘operational details’.

Among the biggest concerns was that no one in the entire organisation was responsible for listening, learning, understanding, and mobilising collective action toward alleviating cross-functional problems of this nature. There was no one to answer questions on the impact of these issues on costs, service quality, passenger experience, and ultimately profit - even as they grew out of control.

Involving senior leadership proved not to be an option. They were too busy getting balance sheets in order and waiting to see what other airlines would do. There was no one to call for action to ease the pressure so obviously caused by overplanning.

As a result, problems continued to accumulate. Operational performance deteriorated further, so much so that the executives finally decided to take things more seriously. Even then, none of the senior executives were directly involved in coordinating action to tackle systemic issues misclassified as purely operational problems. Collective approach to resolving issues of a systemic nature was not part of management practice within the company. 

Sensing that the airline is facing another year of unexpectedly high costs, the board decided to soothe the financial pain through another wave of pay cuts and layoffs. This was justified by the fact that crew expenses in financial reports were among the highest operating costs - on roughly equal footing with fuel. This failed to take into account that problems resulting from pilot shortages can themselves lead to significant financial losses.

What was not taken seriously enough was that some of the most experienced pilots and cabin crew had already left the company, with many more set to follow. This was mainly because of an organisational culture that impacted their professional and private lives adversely and deeply.

This story probably reads like it may have unfolded in recent months. However, it took place 20 years ago. Sadly, the basic premise has remained unchanged. 

The story is about the ignorance of cross-functional dependencies, about how much they contribute to loss-making strategies, creating a culture of disconnect and discontent where common purpose and core values are palpably absent. Where experts don’t have a voice, hence ability to resolve cross-functional issues as they arise. Where relatively simple techniques and practices that support effective cross-functional collaboration are not a consideration. 

This story is meant to inspire action, to help airlines become better connected from within.

The reduction in airline activity caused by the pandemic has created the opportunity to shift collective perception of the role of planning and strategy, with focus on leaning towards emergent, context-related problems. This requires us to rise above the constraints of existing organisational structures and management practices, and engage collective intelligence when making decisions that require constant adjustments in a continuously changing environment.

You can find more about what it takes to lay the foundations for a more adaptable, resilient organisation, conscious of complexities and its own capabilities to face forthcoming challenges in my article The Connected Airline. If you are looking for more inspiration or are ready to take action, whatever your position in the industry, you can find more details on my Website

The more of us stand up, lead and connect, the better we will shake up the status quo, and get closer to what is possible.