In the airline business, making schedule changes is more complex than it seems as it raises many questions. For instance, someone may propose to increase the seat capacity from London to Jamaica at Christmas for the holiday season. But does this make sense strategically? Are the larger planes required available? Are the spare parts available at the right locations? Is the runway long enough at the destination airport? Are trained crew available? What is the impact on the cost of the change on hotel bookings for crew? Can the smaller released planes be redeployed effectively? And so on. To determine whether such a change is profitable involves discussion between many functional groups within the airline:
- Cabin Crew Resources, Crew Resources,
Engineering, Fleet Scheduling,
Flight Crew Resources, Current Planning,
Forward Plans Analysis, Hotel Contracts,
Network Development, Service Delivery Planning,
To do this, British Airways have developed a process for evaluating proposed changes. This is underpinned by a specially developed Lotus Notes application that enables the over 100 people involved to collaborate electronically in proposing and evaluating schedule changes.
Before the new process:
- - only a few key people instigated proposals
- proposals were not widely discussed
- the process was very informal - corridor chats etc.
- only a few key people ever knew the outcome and the decisions leading up to it.
- - anyone can generate a new proposal and everyone can:
- - view proposed changes
- be involved in the discussions
- share analysis
- see how their responses fit
- better understand the results
- learn from each other
- - decisions are faster
- flawed proposals are stopped earlier
- input is made once, unlike memos, faxes, e-mails etc.
- need for meetings is reduced
- access can be made at convenient times
- warning of planned changes is earlier
- the process is more explicit and visible
- strengths and weakness' are more apparent
- the application/process can be continuously improved
- - anyone can raise an issue by entering it into the Lotus Notes application and set a deadline for a decision to be made
- the issue may be for debate or it may be a firm proposal
- a "Guardian" is assigned to each proposal at a weekly management meeting
- departments can comment on the issue electronically
- they can ask questions, make further suggestions, add clarity, comment on feasibility, revenue or cost - all electronically
- at key intervals, the Guardian summarises the status of the proposal and chases up those functional groups who still need to comment
- by the deadline - the Guardian summarises the debate
- finally a resolution is agreed and recorded electronically
For leaders and managers it can mean creating the environment, structures and systems to ensure that such cross-functional working produces positive results. For example performance management and reward systems may need to be adapted to include cross-functional project work or processes. Resources, authority and accountability will need balancing to match success requirements, and ensure that no one group or function has too much influence.
At the individual level, people learn new ways of working as they cooperate more with others outside their own functions and locations. They each expand their personal network and have a greater opportunity to influence and be influenced. People also learn to adapt to a more fluid and flexible way of working and managing their roles and time, as well as improving their influencing and teamwork skills.
David Gurteen & Kieron Gavan
Video: Knowledge Cafe at KMAP 2006
Gurteen Knowledge Cafe at KMAP 2006 in Hong Kong, December 2006, facilitated by David Gurteen and Raksha Sukhia. Courtesy of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Knowledge Management Research Centre.