This is the sixth of a series of articles which focus on managerial challenges in the aviation and aerospace industries. The following brief scenario / case study which is meant to illustrate the problems Part 1 will outline the problem Part 2 will discuss the issues and possible options Part 3 discusses the short term and long-term actions needed to make the organization more resilient
Part 1 – The scenario
Paul, the production manager at Eveready Aircraft Services was trying to decide what to do – he had a real dilemma on his hands.
Paul had just been notified by Karen the project manager for a Heavy check in progress for Allegra Air of a potential problem. Karen suspected the parameters used to inspect the flight control actuators were incorrect. As a result, some of the actuators could actually be at the point where they should be replaced. But the lead time for replacement actuators was 2 weeks. As she left Paul’s office, Karen indicated that she had not informed Carlos the rep from Allegra of her suspicion about the actuators.
Eveready Aircraft was a growing heavy maintenance shop which specialized in regional aircraft. The facility was in the final stages of completing the non routine repairs which had surfaced during the inspection phase. With only 4 days to go, the schedule was tight but until this moment Paul felt confident that the aircraft would be finished on time and on budget.
Securing this heavy check was a significant opportunity for Eveready aircraft. After years of work by the Eveready team this was the first aircraft from Allegra Air, a regional operator with a fleet of 75 aircraft. The Eveready sales team had really stressed on time, and on budget completion in their pitch to the Allegra Air executive team. Allegra had agreed to send this aircraft to Eveready with the understanding that if all went well it could lead to a 5-year heavy check contract. There was a lot riding on this.
As Paul looked out his office window onto the hangar floor, he considered his options.
What would you do if you were in Paul’s shoes or in a senior management role?
When reviewing a scenario, we ask a few questions like: who are the players? What are the primary / secondary issues here? What could happen? And what are the possible solutions to the problem? Take some time to write down some of the challenges and ideas for correcting the challenges.
Part 2 – Problem identification
When reviewing a scenario, we ask a few questions like: who are the players? What are the primary / secondary issues here – root causes? What could happen? And what are the possible solutions to the problem? (Not unlike doing a corrective action plan)
Players / Stakeholders; Paul – the production manager, Karen – the project manager, Carlos – the airline rep. Other stakeholders include the employees and shareholders of Eveready aircraft – if they lose the contact, the loss of work will directly affect them, Employees and shareholders, passengers of Allegra Air – obviously the safety of their passengers and crews are of paramount importance.
What could possibly happen? What is at stake for the company and for the players?
In reviewing this case we could do a basic risk assessment using likelihood and severity as the two factors at play. From a likelihood perspective Paul needs to ensure that the data being used to asses the actuators is correct. When looking at flight control systems any anomaly can lead to severe consequences. So, at this point it may be too early to asses likelihood but the fact that the concern is tied to a flight control system would definitely make this a critical issue.
On the other hand, this aircraft could be the first of a multi million dollar 5-year contract for Eveready. If an issue is raised this late in the inspection that will cause a delay that 5-year - the contract could be put in jeopardy.
What could possibly happen?
What options exist?
Part 3 - Building a Solution
We have reviewed the scenario, identified the players, what is at stake, and proposed a couple possible options. Now what should Paul / or the leadership group do at this point / and in the long term to correct the current challenge?
Short term action
In reading this case and looking at the options the solution may appear to be obvious. Many of us would look at this case and say – the solution is easy – tell the truth. Reach out to Carlos and let him know that there is a potential for a delay to the heavy check. Then start working through the problem with the client in the picture. This would probably be the best answer – from a professional standard, an ethical, and good business practice perspective.
But why is it that we often see organizations making decisions that appear on the surface to be unethical or unprofessional. Are the people in the organization unethical – probably not, is the corporation unethical – probably not, but perhaps the values of the organization are not clear or they are misguided and this lack of clarity allows for lapses in judgement.
Look at your own organization – What are the values that drive your organization? And when we are talking about the values which drive your organization, we really are talking about the values that are demonstrated not just put onto a value statement which hangs on a wall. Do you feel that decisions are made simply out of expediency or cost containment or do the decisions truly reflect your organizations stated values?
Longer term corrective action
In the long term how do you build an organization in which everyone not only talks about doing the right thing, but actually does do what is right even when the stakes are high. These are the organizations which have a reputation for doing the right thing.
As many companies have found out too late reputation is hard earned but very easily lost. People like Paul make decisions every day which can affect the organization’s reputation. How do you build a culture which supports and builds the companies reputation? And allows its people to make the right decision.
One way to incorporate corporate values into the decision process. In the case of an organization like Eveready aircraft we could assume they would have values such as Quality, Integrity, and Safety as corporate values. The challenge is actually using those stated values. In this case we could use Paul’s dilemma and the three options that were identified.
Incorporation of the corporate values is as simple as using the value in a question such as; Which option demonstrates quality work? Or Which option demonstrates integrity? Or which option provides the highest level of safety? By challenging ourselves to look at our dilemmas through the corporate values these values move from wall hangings to actual guiding values.
The reality is we work in a highly competitive world where we need to compete on the basis of turn time, service, price, and reputation. Reputation can easily be destroyed when decisions are made for the wrong reason. Through the use of value-based decision making your organizations reputation is less likely to be tarnished by a poor short-term decision.
These case study and analysis articles were written by Rod Hayward, an associate professor in the BBA AV (Bachelor of Business Administration in Aviation) programme at the University of the Fraser Valley. Rod has worked as a commercial pilot, AME M1 &2, QA manager, director of maintenance, entrepreneur and manager in the Canadian aviation industry and is currently the president of PAMEA. (Pacific Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Association). These articles may only for used for not-for-profit educational purposes. Copyright © 2020.