Process management plays a pivotal role in any organization – even more so in the business aviation industry. But, why is it so important and why is it given so much weight? Simple. It enables organizations to produce consistently stellar outcomes by using well-defined, optimized and relevant processes.
The definition of these processes involves serious decisions which need to be clearly outlined in a well thought out work plan. Process-Driven work makes it possible for everyone to know their roles as well as everyone else’s, lessening the chance for error, quickened response time when failures do occur and providing our travelers with unmatched service and outstanding outcomes.
The challenge for the entire business aviation organization is to become process driven as opposed to being functionally driven. When properly achieved, this has the effect of ‘knocking down the silos’ that commonly exist within a flight department.
Knocking Down Silos
Operating in their own vertical silos, flight operations, maintenance, scheduling/dispatch and business administration often have very little interaction with one other, resulting in work groups or individuals who are separated and many not understand or appreciate each other’s processes and goals. Once the entire flight department is able to knock down these silos and become cross-functionally process-driven, the organization can operate horizontally, not vertically, which is far more efficient and collaborative. This is an essential, fundamental concept that must be understood and embraced before any sustainable progress is truly possible.
Administrative Process Focus Areas
There are five key “to-do” areas in effective process management; each with their own specific roles and responsibilities:
- Planning – Financial, labor, cash flow, capital, equipment, personnel development, outside vendor management, etc.
- Fiscal Operations – payables and receivables (for-profit); cash management; travel expense processing; owner accounting and reporting; SEC & IRS reporting; enterprise-level reporting, etc.
- HR Administration – employment, organizational development, performance assessments, compliance reporting, payroll, etc.
- Regulatory Oversight – compliance reporting within each of the functional areas.
- Host Organization (the Parent Company) & Owner Relationships – informational interactions, needs assessments, transition management, definitions of expectations and performance, etc.
Who Creates Processes?
In the most successful organizations, a process owner usually leads the team, but every team member should be empowered and taught how to create processes. Everyone who is a ‘doer’ should be a ‘creator of processes’ while everyone who is a ‘leader’ should be enabling and teaching those who ‘do’ how to create, own and refine their processes and those processes with whom they work – in a highly collaborative manner.
Requisite Skill Sets
Know what is to be done and, most importantly, why it should be done. Quite often, a person in a functional role may need some assistance when first learning the skillset of process mapping and documentation. But remember –this is definitely not rocket science. The ‘process creator’ will need to possess an inquisitive and questioning nature. Nothing should be accepted at face value. While logical and linear thinking are very helpful attributes, these should not be elevated to such a level that ‘only the brilliant can do this’. The individual must have a penchant for details as this can become a real grind! It’s also beneficial if this person is more of a collaborator as opposed to being a lone wolf. Successful process definition cannot be performed in a vacuum.
What’s the Biggest Challenge?
Making the commitment to create processes and allocating the resources to get them done and implement them is, hands down, the most important challenge. When these processes are created in a collaborative way, then everyone is invested, making buy-in far more natural. But remember, nothing is static – including these processes. The commitment to keep the processes contemporary with what’s really going on is absolutely essential.
How to Document “Tribal Knowledge”
From a corporate perspective, tribal knowledge is ‘the collective wisdom of the organization. It is the sum of all the knowledge and capabilities of all the people.’ Because of its importance, tribal knowledge is pivotal. The following procedural recommendations can be effective at documenting the collective wisdom that exists within your business aviation team:
- Select any of the subjects and all of the individuals who you recognize as the true keepers of tribal knowledge on this particular subject.
- Get together. Meet with each individual to discuss and document this particular subject – preferably starting with a process map. Most likely, you will run into many points of difference that require a resolution.
- Merge. Combine your findings into one consolidated and unified process map.
- Bring everyone together in one room at the same time, and walk through the map together in one hour or less. Don’t get too granular or you will find yourself mired in a series of rabbit holes. Proceeding longer than one hour at a time will only produce a result of much lesser quality and, in the end, will take a lot longer to complete the process.
The Greatest Benefits
Your hard work has now paid off! The benefits of effective process management are broad and can be very impactful. Becoming a process driven flight department is the only way to produce consistently high quality execution. Processes need to be scalable so the volume can grow without a commensurate increase in labor hours.
Process definition will take inefficiencies, costs and stresses out of an organization. Heroic actions, working until dawn and last minute Hail Mary’s will no longer be required. In fact, those formerly ‘heroic acts’ become a telltale sign of failure rather than ’victories’. Celebrate the absence of ‘heroic acts’!
A well thought out process design will have both measures of success and effectiveness. Importantly, it will also carry with it a target for continuous improvement – what was good last year will be below par this year and totally unacceptable next year if there isn’t an on-going quest for improvement.
Other identifiable process management benefits include:
- Alignment with the needs of the organization, the travelers/users of the aircraft and the departmental employees
- Improvement of the traveler/customer experience, and their perception of value
- Enhancement of operational performance – often with less resources
- Integration of people- and technology-driven processes
- Enablement of teams to respond to changing traveler (customer), market and regulatory demands, creating a competitive advantage for your aviation department
- Measurement of process effectiveness through the use of benchmarking and metrics
- Optimization and continuous process improvement to ensure the department continually adapts to, and preferably anticipates, market needs, and
- Identification of the major operational processes that influence the performance of your aviation organization most.
Most Impactful Processes
As we all know, business aviation is a service-driven business. Because of this, we must thoroughly understand the expectations of our many constituencies that include customers, owners, executives and/or principal travelers. It is imperative to determine what’s really, truly important to them, and then design service delivery processes that will blow them away. The most impactful processes are ones that focus upon meeting and, preferably, exceeding performance expectations.
Finally, remember that what’s really important to us, as aviation professionals, must be subordinated to what’s important to those we serve, all while continuing to deliver the highest levels of safety, security and operational excellence well within all ‘best practices’ and regulatory guidelines.