Flight Department Consolidation: When Two Become One

Author By Jim Lara
Flight Department Consolidation - Merger

Call it what you will—a merger, joining forces or acquisition. When there’s a flight department consolidation, the end result is change.

And lots of it.

As a business aviation leader, it’s your role and responsibility to produce the finest possible outcome for the corporation or your high net worth owner.

And you must come to grips with the fact that you might not be the eventual leader of the ongoing organization.

So, how do these consolidation deals really work?

The honest truth is that in virtually every one, a dominant organization emerges.

A “Union of Equals” might sound good.

But, it almost never turns out that way. If you subscribe to the notion that your job is to produce the finest possible outcome, how do you do it?

If you hold the belief that, “It’s me first and everything else is secondary,” I urge you to negotiate your separation package right now.


Here are 7 ways to manage a flight department consolidation:

1. Check your Ego at the Door

I already hinted above at step one, which is to check your ego at the door. If you can’t (or won’t) do this, the result will be sub-optimal.

Really. It’s not about you! We’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again, there’s no ‘I’ in team.


2. Understand the New Direction

Where is the new organization going? You’ll need a good understanding of the host organization’s strategic direction.

Remember that you are leading a ‘service business.’ Therefore, you really must understand what this new organization will need in terms of business aviation resources and services.

  • How is the new aviation organization going to create significant, quantifiable and sustainable value for the organization?
  • How will the aviation service offering be characterized in terms of mission profiles? That is, what’s the stage length, number of passengers and types of missions?
  • Will there be a mix of international vs. domestic?
  • What are the existing aircraft capabilities vs. what will be needed?

And so forth.

Critically, you’ll want to define the organization’s ‘new’ cultural norms and behavioral values.

These are a few important questions you might ask yourself. You’ll want to do this as you try to grasp what the new organization will look and feel like moving forward.


3.  Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

You are combining multiple organizations that were previously autonomous operating units. There will be great uncertainty and insecurity. Especially in the minds of each team member if you don’t communicate on a continual basis.

Remember that information voids will be filled with either official or unofficial information. And know that the ‘grape vine’ often has more credibility than the ‘official pronouncements.’

Be clear, frank, unambiguous, consistent, straightforward and frequent with your communications.

Hold all-hands meetings. Talk with functional groups. And make time for individual one-on-ones. When you think that you’ve thoroughly communicated the message, start over. And do it again.

Bear in mind one of the communication axioms: “If you haven’t delivered the message at least three times in a few days, you haven’t delivered it at all!”


4. Assess your Talent Pool

What specific talents and capabilities will members of the new organization need? How will they deliver the services to meet and exceed the host organization’s expectations?

Remember, this new organization is being created to deliver results. When two or more organizations are consolidated, you will uncover redundancies.

Move carefully, yet swiftly, to choose the team members for the new organization. Be compassionate and fair. Especially with those who will be not be included in the new, ‘going-forward’ organization. Complete the selection process quickly.


5. Respect Every Totem

Keep and respect the best of the past from both legacy groups to create the future. In almost every organization, there are treasured beliefs and exemplary characters that help to define the culture. Don’t deny that they exist.

Change needs to have a foundational base — a springboard. The historical brands and symbols of an organization can be great sources of strength. Change for the sake of change is often a disastrous practice.


6. Set the Direction and Execute

One oft he three essential responsibilities of leadership is to set clear direction. Define where the new organization is going and why.

Ask for everyone’s help with the identification of barriers as well as defining what resources are required to produce the desired result.

Answer their WIFM question: What’s in it for me?

Make the organization’s newly defined direction absolutely clear and unambiguous. Make it big and aspirational.


7. Stay in Touch

Take the organization’s temperature on a continuous basis. As the leader, you must ‘stay in touch.’ Watch, assimilate, listen and hear what’s really going on in the organization. Be grateful for the uncomfortable. Deal with reality.

Your job is not to make people ‘happy.’

Each individual must take responsibility for his or her own happiness. Your responsibility is to lead the organization forward. You’ll also want to achieve the objectives that you and your reporting executive have agreed upon.

Combining multiple organizations to create a consolidated new one is very demanding. It’s difficult work. It’s much like completing one chapter in a novel and starting the next.

It takes vision, courage, commitment, maturity and empathy. Just remember, leadership requires you to lead, not ‘do.’ In order to be a leader, you must have followers.

And followership is an optional choice that each employee makes.


Next Step

If you’re looking for guidance on how to better achieve these seven steps during a flight department consolidation, give me a call. I’d be happy to have a30-minute discussion with you.


Your Turn

Have you recently been affected by the consolidation of one or more flight departments? How did it go? What other advice do you have for our readers? Please share what you’ve learned in the comments section below.