A cartoon circulated decades ago that showed a swing hung from a tree in various ways. One configuration was captioned, “As sales ordered it, another “As engineering designed it,” another, “As we manufactured it,” and, finally, “What the customer wanted.”
The obvious point is that all configurations were different! Singularity of purpose among this company’s internal organizations was certainly not evident.
Alignment was not achieved.
Alignment: The First Essential Key to Success
At Gray Stone Advisors, we use a foundation to help our clients achieve superior performance, and it starts with the “Seven Essential Keys to Success in Business Aviation.”
First, we’ll cover the first essential key, Alignment, and discuss why it’s vitally important to ensure that your aviation operation is in complete alignment with the parent company or host organization.
The roots of organizational excellence begin in making sure that the expectations of the customer and the level of service provided meet precisely. In other words, alignment exists.
For any corporate flight department, it all comes down to the basic question, “Is our organization completely aligned with the host or parent company?”
Before you respond with an immediate “yes, of course!” ask yourself:
- Does everyone in your organization really know where the organization is headed? Can everyone describe, without notes or prompting, a common view of the future?
If not, your team’s efforts can be scattered and wheels can spin without impact. A well-crafted depiction of the future expressed in the form of an inspirational vision statement helps to create a focused and “aligned” organization.
- Does your organization know how the vision will be accomplished? Does everyone know the ways that success is measured?
An impactful mission statement ensures that all oars are in the water and pulling in the same direction.
- Is everyone in your organization clear on how they will interact with each other and with senior executive passengers? This is a no-brainer when things are going well, but when the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan, things can change quickly.
Keeping the organization behaviorally glued together, through thick and thin (aka, aligned), is best ensured with a set of clear value statements.
With respect to the customers you serve, alignment is vitally important. For a corporate flight department, when one of your senior executive passengers disembarks the aircraft after a flight, is a quick comment like, “Nice job!” sufficient to ensure that all expectations were met and that you are both aligned?
Probably not. Business aircraft are productivity tools. The minds of your senior executive travelers are focused, as they should be, on the business at hand. In the case of the disembarking executive, it could be the meeting that he or she is headed to or just came from. If they are operating on a tight schedule (as most are), you cannot assume that “Nice job!” captures all the nuances of their experience on the flight.
There could very well have been a catering item that wasn’t delivered as ordered, or perhaps the wrong newspaper was provided on the aircraft. The trip booking process may not have gone as smoothly as the executive’s administrative assistant expected it to.
You will never know unless you ask.
How do you ensure that your aviation team is aligned with corporate expectations? There are lots of ways to check in with your travelers and their assistants.
- Do you regularly reach out to your senior executives to discuss their experience on company aircraft?
- How about the administrative assistants booking the flights?
- Do you have a simple, but effective, Customer Service Index in place?
A significant amount of the work that Gray Stone does with clients is focused on developing alignment. The time that you invest in determining, reaffirming and validating customer needs goes a long way toward ensuring that your team is aligned and performing to all expectations.
And it’s not just about service expectations. An even greater amount of focus needs to be turned to achieving alignment with the strategic direction of the company. Are you truly a business partner with corporate? Are you involved in discussions on where the company is headed, or what it will need in terms of senior executive travel to get there?
That’s a critically important element of alignment for an aviation operation. Stay tuned, more on that in a future blog.
A Final Thought
There is a tremendous payoff when your team is aligned with the expectations of your host organization or parent company. Equally important, your ability to align your flight department with the expectations of your corporate customer is an essential element for your own professional success.
In your quest for organizational excellence, start with alignment … you’ll be glad you did.