Friday, 16 July 2021
Sunday, 16 May 2021
In times of unprecedented uncertainty, airline leaders find it hard to adapt to the new circumstances. To survive the crisis, airlines need new approaches that will make strategy and operations work in sync.
Pandemic caused reduction in airline activities have created an opportunity to lay the foundation for a more adaptable, resilient organisation, conscious of complexities and its own capabilities to sustain forthcoming challenges.
Making the most of this opportunity requires a shift in perception of
what planning and strategizing are about, with focus leaning towards emergent,
context-related problems. It requires rising above limitations imposed by
organisational structures and management practices and engaging collective
intelligence when making decisions that require constant adjustments in a
continuously changing environment.
If we can create a space, a platform where people around the airline can continually find ways to improve locally whilst being keenly aware of the company's goals, we will improve the odds of our airlines thriving in good and in difficult times. Along the way, much will be learnt - mostly from experience.
As Eric Ries said, under conditions of high uncertainty, learning is the most vital function. We must learn the truth about which elements of our strategy are working, and which are not. This is more to the point, more accurate and faster than classical business planning.
The question is, what does it take to bring this new process to life?
Due to its dynamic nature, the work on system improvement has to take place on neutral territory, a space through which information about system dysfunctions can flow naturally, creating the feeling of connectedness and belonging. This neutral platform engages the whole organisation. People gather to resolve problems experienced in real life, seen from different perspectives. In doing this, they develop a deeper understanding of their shared purpose – to serve passengers and improve their experience - no matter how far from the passengers their work may seem to be. This is not about who, but what has caused the system to underperform, which eliminates the blame culture.
This approach requires a shift in management attention: from looking at sum totals and averages of disconnected financial and operational data that only surface the problem areas, to understanding the underlying causes of things that didn’t work as expected. This is an essential prerequisite for narrowing the gap between what we wanted to achieve and what we actually delivered.
There are two essential steps for making this process effective.
Secondly, we need to identify intangible causes of these events guided by narratives of people involved in the processes – starting with operations control and then, depending on the situation, involving operations planners, ground services, service suppliers, scheduling, network, strategic and commercial planners, customer relations or other relevant functions.
Identifying the multiple, interrelated causes is the most important stage in this process. It makes the interconnections between data, people and processes visible and measurable and reveals the bottlenecks in the flow of work and information.
Successful outcome of these collaborative gatherings depends on skilled facilitators, ‘boundary-spanners’ – people with multidisciplinary knowledge and diverse experiences who are able to move freely between operations and senior management, translating the requirements of each into a language and behaviour that is acceptable to, and understandable by the others. The role of a facilitator is to establish ‘experience bridges’ that link people, information and process, and accelerate progress through the development of a shared understanding of problems affecting the overall performance.
Each of the collaborative gatherings organised by boundary-spanners results in a call to action presented in relational action maps where interdependencies between departments and flow of work become visible and easier to understand and revisit while measuring progress. This process can be described as an initial phase of transition towards a new breed of organisation, where work flows naturally and flaws are easy to notice and act upon at early stages. This is the way towards truly adaptive organisations.
The innovative role of technology is to ease the access to information resulting from numerous interactions by visualising the results. Spotting the pain points in need of action, and monitoring progress in such a complex context are challenges beyond the capability of a single human mind.
To make the most of technology, experts on both sides need to work together for as long as necessary to make sure that this new integrative process works successfully.
First published on Thinkers360 blog
Friday, 26 February 2021
While decisions about whether or not airline mergers are an existential necessity are still in the air, it's time to take a deeper look at their shadow side, to understand how they touch the lives of employees and passengers, and what is their impact on cost and service quality.
By definition, a megamerger creates one corporation that may maintain control over a large percentage of market share within its industry. This occurs through the acquisition, merger and consolidation. The big four megamergers (American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United) now control 85 percent of the market, compared with 55 percent ten years ago. Having fewer competing airlines means that there is now less pressure to improve customer service or worry about losing passengers who often have no better travel alternatives. What they are still not measuring and accounting for are losses caused by increased inefficiencies and passenger dissatisfaction.
- Which of the following codes was used to describe the cause of delay: 14 (Oversales, booking errors), 66 (Late cabin crew boarding or departure procedures), 67 (Cabin crew shortage), 68 (Cabin crew error or special request)?
- For how long was the flight delayed? How long did it take passengers to reach their destination? How long did it take Doctor Dao to get to the place he needed to be and was he accompanied by his luggage? How long did it take him to heal his wounds?
- Is there an IATA code for passenger experience and emotional scars they may wear for life?
- What caused the sudden assignment of deadhead crew from the partner airline?
- How much will it all cost the airline in refunds, compensations, and future revenue loss?
- How many passengers on other routes experienced long delays and cancellations and what are the real causes of losses in costs, revenue, and reputation?
- Do high load factors of over 80% cause more harm from disruption losses than benefits from increased revenue? What are the most critical routes?
- How much does high aircraft utilisation contribute to disruptions and what are the related losses?
- How much does adding more routes at congested airports really cost the airline?
- How many passengers lost connections and how much did it cost the airline?
- What are the losses caused by outsourced service providers and partners and can they be recovered?
- Do surveys about passenger satisfaction include disrupted passengers?
- Can employees cope with a surge in disruptions and how does this reflect on their attitude towards disrupted passengers?
- What needs to be done to make a better balance between profit and quality?
Saturday, 6 February 2021
Choosing which way to go once market starts recovering will be a tricky business. Old habits of collecting data from disconnected sources and interpreting them subjectively won’t work this time. We are entering the era of insights needed to connect and interpret the data as objectively as possible while narrowing the focus on things that matter.
‘Without a doubt, the ability to connect the dots is rare, prized and valuable. Connecting dots, solving the problem that hasn't been solved before, seeing the pattern before it is made obvious, is more essential than ever before.
Why then, do we spend so much time collecting dots instead? More facts, more tests, more need for data, even when we have no clue (and no practice) in doing anything with it.
Their big bag of dots isn't worth nearly as much as your handful of insight, is it?’ -Seth Godin.
So, instead of collecting the dots we should start connecting data and insights every time we discover problems with systemwide origins, and then look at them together from different perspectives. The more we practice it, the better we will become in sensing what comes next including new opportunities. This is how we can get well better prepared for new challenges.
This is how connectedness, thrust, feelings of care, belonging, and togetherness start shaping the culture that can withstand difficulties and even thrive when faced with uncertainty. It has been proven to work for Southwest for the last 50 years.
Can you give it a try?
Wednesday, 3 February 2021
Leaders and strategists are faced with an ultimate challenge: how much, when, and where to start increasing operation at time of extreme uncertainty and growing indebtedness.
Saturday, 30 January 2021
Which diagnostic approach and tool do you use to determine the state of health of your organisation? Are you a specialist or a sage?
Whenever faced with a hard-to-answer question, I look for analogies. In this case I found the following quote from Fritjof Capra's book 'The Turning Point' inspirational and would like to share it with you.
Friday, 22 January 2021
Earlier this month, British Airways announced their partnering with Michelin-starred celebrity meant to improve the experience of economy passengers on their short-haul flights. The airline has never been short of innovative ideas, including things like 'happiness blanket'. Other airlines have had their tries and choices.
It is obviously not easy to understand what passengers really want if airlines cannot guarantee them that they won’t arrive to their destination stressed due to long delays and poor experiences when things go wrong - no matter the price they paid for their journey. These kind of events are pretty much classless experiences.
But what if it is not much about food, or blankets, or products they can buy? As Seth Godin pondered:
“Perhaps she wants to be heard instead.
Or find something better, or unique.
Or perhaps customer service, flexibility and speed are more important.
It might be that the way you treat your employees, or the side effects you create count for more than the price.
The interactions in the moment might be a higher priority.
Or it could even be the sense of fairplay and respect you bring (or don’t bring) to the transaction.”
Southwest Airlines can serve as a good example.
Something to think about while shaping the future of flying and our relationship with passengers.
Wednesday, 30 December 2020
It is now certain that things we cannot control will take some time to settle. As much as it is not easy to live with uncertainty, this time gap is giving us an opportunity to adapt to new ways of thinking about our work. As we have already experienced, the way we used to define strategies, to plan and make decisions, will no longer work. We are dependent on feedback from the real world for which we found ourselves unprepared.
The thing is that we have to find our own way out of this crisis. There is a lot of great advice around on what and why we need to change. But what is really missing is HOW to do that amidst the heightened state of uncertainty and complexity that have, to a lesser extent, always been a part of the airline business. So, the question is how to build a more resilient organisation that can survive the forthcoming adversities?
The answer is actually relatively simple, as demonstrated through my years long work, and explained more comprehensively in my book Beyond Airline Disruptions-Thinking and Managing Anew.
On this occasion, I would like to share with you an excerpt from the closing chapter of this book. It points to the benefits that can be expected when we make it possible for strategy and operations to work in sync for the benefit of our customers. And also, when we start focusing on work that matters while taking good care of our employees.“-Instead of managing people, we should manage problems that cause our passengers to leave us even when our price is lower than our competitors.
-Instead of relying on predictions based on the past we should keep reconfiguring and adapting, fine tuning our operations to best meet passenger needs.
-Instead of traditional planning and forecasting based on aggregate historical figures which tell nothing about their interconnectedness and true origins, we should focus on resolving the complex emerging problems that are threatening the system performance while aware about their deeper causes.
-When we think about new ideas, we will have a better sense if they are going to work well for us and what we have to do to adapt when circumstances change. We will know better what to offer and how to assist our passengers travelling to and from disruption-prone airports and airspace.
-We will be more aware of what an airline is capable of doing and what cannot be done. And if we decide to do what we cannot deliver at our best, we will know that this is a calculated risk measured against other known benefits but will ensure that the negative impact of such decisions on customers, partners, and employees is minimal.
This game-changing approach to management creates a shift in culture. And as a result, trust and care about the core purpose strengthen, the service improves and cost is reduced.
This new approach to management is simple to implement and, from the very beginning, starts to inspire people across the organisation to engage their ingenuity in understanding and improving their work while sharing common goals. It is accessible to all those with a mind open to new ideas, those who seek long-lasting success, those willing to build their business based on trust and cooperation, caring for employees and through them for customers.
Let’s challenge ourselves to evolve, innovate, and experiment, to create a better future.”
With this in mind, I wish you and yours a happier, healthier, and more prosperous new year.
Saturday, 28 November 2020
Honoured to be in the company of these amazing women with such diverse skills and experiences, and fresh approach to work.
Wednesday, 18 November 2020
If you experience lousy service or poor quality, it’s probably not solely the fault of the person who talked to you on the phone, dealt with you at the counter or assembled your product.It’s the boss.
The boss didn’t design the system properly, didn’t align incentives, didn’t invest in training. The boss isn’t thinking hard about hiring the right people. And the boss isn’t listening.
As a result, the frontline workers are often undertrained, underresourced and overscheduled.
But, and it’s a huge but, those very same frontline workers don’t have to suffer in silence. They can provide a useful conduit of information and feedback. They can model how it could work better and establish a model for those around them. Not because it’s easy, but because it’s important.
The top-down nature of the industrial entity is rapidly being replaced by the power of peer-to-peer learning and leadership. There’s no top and no bottom. Simply the ranks of people who care enough to make things better.
Thursday, 12 November 2020
Sunday, 8 November 2020
This is a rare opportunity to hear an experienced CEO talking openly about well known but wilfully ignored pitfalls in management.
Margaret Heffernan, the CEO, management expert, and author questions why we ignore the obvious and suggests that if you want to see the full picture you need to have people around the board table who inhabit different kinds of mindsets.
In an age of complexity the failure to take account of multiple perspectives is really dangerous. We understand the complex systems are impossible to see in a kind of a single view. So we need those multiple views if we are going to understand the world we are living in.
The question is how can we put these multiple perspectives together in airline management?
The process is not difficult to implement. It doesn't require organisational changes or structural transformations - it is about enabling the natural flow of work across organisation. And also, about access to relevant data and group insights in support of decision making that benefits the entire organisation. Things that require facilitators with real skills based on the wide industry knowledge and experience.
The process is refreshing and regenerative. The time is ripe for its implementation.