Four Steps to Strategic Planning for Business Aviation Flight Departments

Author By Jim Lara

A business aviation strategic plan lays out where a flight department is going over the next visible time frame– probably not more than three years in today's frenetic environment.

And while many flight department leaders have not yet introduced strategic planning into their routines, those who have, realized tremendous benefits.

If a Director of Aviation doesn't know where his or her department is going, the organization will merely drift. The analogous situation is a 'boat without a rudder.' Further, without a plan, the flight department will constantly be in a reactionary state, which means you are constantly behind and having to play catch-up.

Having a well thought-out and fully aligned strategic plan will result in your organization being in a perpetual state of anticipation, which is a far less stressful and infinitely more efficient position—both short- and long-term.

Let's take a look at the four initial steps involved in creating a strategic plan:

1.  Identify key stakeholders.

Business aviation is a service business commonly within a larger host organization which will probably mean that the host organization's overall strategic plan is your 'North Star.'

The business aviation strategic plan must be totally aligned with the direction and culture of the company's, meaning that your Aviation Reporting Executive must be intimately involved. And, since your flight department is ultimately accountable for delivering results, your functional group leaders must also be intimately involved and should have representation: administration, maintenance, flight operations, in-flight services, scheduling and dispatch.

2.  Ask the right questions.

Don't worry about asking a wrong question.  Be aggressive in asking the relevant questions relating to the content of your plan. These can include:

  • Where is the host enterprise going and why?
  • What is the appropriate time horizon for our focus?
  • How does the host enterprise define the ways we create value for them?
  • What are the fundamental changes that are likely to take place during the planning horizon?

3.  Collaborate with your team.

Introduce collaborative and interactive work sessions in areas with which team members may have had little exposure and try to move them out of their 'comfort zone.'

Ensure they are working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Aviation Reporting Executive in the parent company, which provides them with great visibility and exposure for this initiative.

At the beginning, you will also need to 'know' your customer and each of their 'satisfaction drivers'. After all, you cannot build a strategy and select effective tactics without this knowledge in a quantified form. This can't be hazy or vague; it must be crisply and lucidly defined.

Remember, a team without a plan is always bordering on chaos. If there's no plan, there's no focus. Distraction becomes normal and desired performance is unknown without a collaborative plan in place!

4. Develop performance metrics.

Metrics will let you know if your plan is in fact working and where changes need to be made. Understand your 'desired future position' along with the milestone assessment points along the way. The performance metrics will relate directly to the set of tactics you have chosen in order to reach the strategic objectives.

Hitting Pay Dirt!

In a relatively short time, you will start to see the benefits of a successfully implemented strategic plan, most notably in employee morale.

With a plan in place, the flight department will always know where it stands, both in absolute and relative terms. Staff will know where they are going and the path to achieve the objectives. To reinforce the point I made earlier, anticipation and preparedness are so much more powerful and effective than constantly being in a reactionary mode.

The Chinese warrior and philosopher Sun Tzu once wrote that "failing to plan is planning to fail" and this is so very true.

With a strategic plan in place, an organization's execution is nearly always prepared. You will operate faster, have crisper/more focused execution, require less motion, use fewer resources than in a reactionary mode and realize far less stress over the course of your workday!