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Pulling Off the JetBlue Experience As Air Asia Flight MA15 taxis to the runway at KL International Airport bound

for Macao,, customers may not realize the level of complexity behind the scenes to safely and efficiently operate a major airline. The System Operations Center (SOC) is the heart of the airline the epicenter where effective decision making, communication, teamwork, and leadership are critical to ensure that crewmembers able to meet and exceed customer needs. This department has a direct impact on ensuring that JetBlues vision of bringing humanity back to air travel is achieved. Today, the SOC is comprised of five teams, including Maintenance Control, System Control, Crew Services, Dispatch, and Watch (i.e. security). By fostering an environment that puts crewmembers first, Air Asia has broken new territory in an industry known for bad customer service and disgruntled employees. The low-cost airline entered the market in The 1990s and has survived competition from major airlines: As Air Asia grew and changed, a culture shift occurred. Processes that once were sufficient became outdated. The 150 crewmembers of the SOC were at the forefront of these organizational changes, which included turnover in leadership, expansion into international markets, increased number of departures, and the introduction of a new fleet type. Compounding the stress of these internal changes were the external pressures of competing carriers emerging from bankruptcy, increased fuel prices, as well as an increasing number of low-fare carriers entering the marketplace. In this tumultuous environment a critical need emerged to proactively investigate the departments strengths, weaknesses, and areas where transformation was needed to be prepared for the future. To address this need, a partnership between the SOC and the Organizational Development (OD) team within R&D (the airlines centralized learning group) was forged. The goal of this partnership was to create a stronger foundation within the SOC by building a healthier organizational culture that will support Air Asia crewmembers and customers and enable a consistent delivery of the Air Asia Experience. Lets Get Engaged Managing the daily operational performance of a major airline is a full-time job. So how would leaders and crewmembers within the department find the time to engage themselves in this improvement process? The on-time departure of Flight MA 15 alone (one of about 500 daily flights) requires the full attention of the SOC team including: dispatchers who must monitor weather and generate the flight plan for the cockpit crew crew schedulers who activate a reserve flight attendant and a pilot to ensure the aircraft is adequately staffed maintenance controllers who communicate to the maintenance department at JFK when a part needs to be changed prior to departure SOC managers who coordinate an aircraft swap for the flight when the scheduled plane is delayed inbound to KLIA

These key players represent the teamwork required by the diverse departments who together comprise the SOC team. Their decisions directly impact customer and crewmember satisfaction as well as bottom-line performance. These same people, while recognizing their success in getting Flight MA15 off the ground today, realize that tomorrows operating environment will look very different. Crewmembers in the SOC, as well as the senior leadership team, ponder whether or not their efforts will scale to a larger more complex operation. The Senior Vice President of Operations sought an outside perspective from the OD team to help him look under the hood to identify what was working well and what could be changed. The organizational culture at Air Asia embraces change, so the decision to help the SOC continuously improve was supported by all within the department from directors to frontline crewmembers. Once the sponsor for the project was approved, the OD team met with key stakeholders, mainly leaders from the System Operations Center, to begin developing a comprehensive contract that outlined the scope of work and to establish clear roles and expectations. After the sponsor and the OD team established an agreed upon contract, the planning of this large scale intervention commenced. Engaging both internal and external SOC stakeholders during the planning process strengthened the level of commitment to the initiative.

Tell Us What Youre Thinking One of the decisions made in the planning phase of the project was to utilize a familiar tool to gain feedback from SOC crewmembers. Air Asia is a progressive company and invests in its crewmembers by focusing on the development of leaders with the expectation that they will in turn treat their crewmembers right and lead the company to prosperity. Air

Asia already utilized the Denison Leadership Development Survey in their leadership development program, The Principles of Leadership (POL). Because the model that comprises the Denison Leadership Development Survey so closely represents the POL series at Air Asia, the tool was well received throughout the organization. It therefore made sense to use the Denison Organizational Culture Survey as the diagnostic tool for the SOC change initiative. Visually, the model was appealing and easy to interpret; more importantly, it linked to bottom-line business performance, including market share, sales growth, and employee and customer satisfaction. Since the decisions made within the SOC directly impact customer satisfaction, understanding the strength of the departments culture would be valuable given the link between organizational culture and customer satisfaction proven by Denison. In addition to the quantitative data provided by the Denison Organizational Culture Survey, capturing qualitative data was also critical. Accordingly, 40 interviews and focus groups from all departments and all levels within the SOC were conducted to gain insight into the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the department. As an internal representative in the organization, the OD consultant was able to leverage existing relationships with SOC crewmembers, creating a comfortable environment for crewmembers to speak openly and honestly during interviews and focus groups. After synthesizing the data, the OD consultant met with SOC leadership to interpret the data during a one-day working session. During the session, the details of the Denison model were explored and case studies were reviewed to ensure that the participants understood the model so they would be able to interpret their own results. Additionally, the leadership team spent time anticipating and discussing what their results may look like before seeing them. Once some initial hypotheses were presented, the results were reviewed and the group was able to focus their attention on two things that were working well (high scores on the survey) and two things that were not working well (low scores on the survey). The group then reviewed specific information about the gap in scores between directors and managers. This gap illustrated important perception differences between these leadership levels, about the SOC department as a whole, as well as their respective team results. In summarizing the information captured from the Denison Organizational Culture Survey, the focus groups, and the interviews, five key themes were identified and translated into action. These key themes correlated directly with specific indices on the Denison Model, reaffirming the models value to strategy development and culture change: Goals and Objectives - Communicate meaningful and understandable departmental and team goals that are aligned with the company goals. Crewmember Development - Provide technical and soft skills training to support crewmembers by establishing a partnership with R&D. Customer Focus - Gain insight and respond to internal customers needs by defining consistent processes and increasing internal communication. Willingness to Change - Identify and adopt new ways to work to achieve goals and

manage growth with the tools and resources available by utilizing internal resources, developing strategic plans, and creating forums to generate innovative ideas. Guidelines - Develop guidelines that can be followed and interpreted (These guidelines are to be developed once departmental and team goals are finalized.)

The OD consultant stressed to the leadership team that focusing on a few relevant areas was much more effective than creating a laundry list of opportunities. The correlation of these themes with the Denison Model would also provide a platform to monitor departments progress and to build accountability into the process. Navigating the Roadmap Collecting and analyzing the data was only the first step in the change process. The OD consultant met regularly with each member of the SOC leadership team individually to educate them about the role of leadership during the change process, reasons why people resist change, and how to develop strategies to overcome that resistance. The five themes were communicated to the entire organization through an appreciative email from the Senior Vice President. In addition, the OD consultant facilitated intensive weekly meetings for the first month to develop and execute an extensive action plan. However, leadership knew that a single email and a weekly meeting behind closed doors would not be enough to gain the crewmember buy-in necessary to transfer those themes into action. In order to capture the hearts and minds of the crewmembers in the SOC and to bring credibility to the effort, leadership needed to walk the talk to truly become a higher performing culture. Leadership ensured that their behaviors were in line with the verbal and written communications that were dispersed. Directors and managers attended weekly action planning meetings, consistently participated in goal setting sessions, and took time to meet with frontline crewmembers about the vision and the action plan. An action planning roadmap, including goals, deadlines and responsible owners, was created and displayed in the middle of the SOC to serve as a visual reminder of the changes that were underway. In addition to visible leadership support and extensive communication, creating a coalition of crewmembers that would serve as ambassadors was critical to the successful implementation of the five themes. Crewmembers within the SOC were nominated by their peers to serve on a roundtable. The purpose of the roundtable was to get frontline crewmembers real- involved in the change process. In essence, the group was designed to help implement changes to improve performance based on the feedback from the data collection. At least once a month, this group would meet to discuss issues, provide updates about changes that were underway, and remove obstacles that potentially blocked the new vision from being achieved. Finally, in order for crewmembers within the department to quickly see that the effort was producing quantifiable results, short-term wins were identified. Town hall meetings with senior leadership were instituted; professional development courses began; and an

on-boarding program to help new crewmembers successfully join the team was rolled out. Leadership actively looked for opportunities to obtain marked improvements so the projects excitement and sense of urgency was maintained. To reiterate the departments ownership of the data and the execution of the resulting action plan, the OD consultant transferred the weekly meeting facilitation responsibilities to the SOC Directors within the first month. The Directors took turns facilitating the meetings on a rotating basis, symbolizing their buy-in and commitment to the initiative. Each week was considered to be a working session and all efforts were aligned with the key themes. Out of those weekly sessions, detailed action plans were created and executed in relation to the five themes: 1. Goals and Objectives: Create a compelling vision in order to create alignment across levels among different teams and to inspire the actions of the people in the department regarding their decision making and overall motivation. Conduct goal setting session in order to be able to communicate meaningful and understandable departmental and team goals that are aligned with the company goals so SOC crewmembers understand how their decisions supported the goals of the organization. Schedule town hall meetings where the president, CEO, and other leaders communicate the state of the organization and reinforce the vision of the company with crewmembers. Improve overall teamwork and cross-departmental relationships through quarterly offsite events such as a Manhattan scavenger hunt, BBQs and softball games. Send bi-monthly leadership newsletters to the department in order to track stated goals, provide current updates, and reward and recognize crewmembers. 2. Crewmember Development: Conduct a complete needs assessment in order to identify the specific training needs and performance support requirements of SOC crewmembers. Develop training common to all of the teams in the SOC such as stress management and phone customer service skills training. Develop an orientation program to familiarize new crewmembers with the roles, communication processes, software, and key regulatory guidelines of each team within the SOC. 3. Customer Focus: Create process and communication maps that the SOC can follow during irregular operations in order to ensure consistent decision-making and a positive experience for crewmembers and customers. Leverage a company-wide shadow program to allow SOC crewmembers to gain insight into other teams inside and outside the department.

4. Willingness to Change: Create and maintain a coalition of change ambassadors to serve on a roundtable committee to develop plans, execute action plans, and identify challenges and potential obstacles. 5. Guidelines: Once goals have been set forth for the department, the development of guidelines will begin based on individual team needs. Maintaining the Momentum The tremendous amount of work that SOC leaders contributed to make these actions possible created a positive atmosphere in the working meetings and met the needs of the SOC crewmembers. With all the work that went into making the SOC a better organization, it would have been easy to declare victory. However, instead of simply celebrating the launch and completion of various initiatives that resulted from the hard work of the crewmembers, a follow-up Denison survey was administered to reassess the state of the department and to adapt the action plan accordingly. The five themes were resurveyed to formally assess the progress that was made since the commencement of the initiative to both justify the time spent and determine if any redirection was necessary. Accordingly, the Denison Organizational Culture Survey: Change Monitor was administered six months after the launch of the project. The Denison Organizational Culture Change Model allows organizations to monitor their progress by measuring progress in up to four indexes. JetBlue chose to implement the Culture Change Monitor because it promotes accountability, ensures that the group follows through with its action plans and helps test the effectiveness of the change initiative. Similar to the original surveys debriefing sessions, a feedback meeting accompanied by an action planning session was conducted by the OD consultant with leadership to discuss the results. From this process came a refined action plan a tighter focus on the areas that needed to be leveraged. Also, resurveying allowed the leadership team to assess the perception gap between levels of leadership. The data from the survey indicated much greater alignment among directors, managers, and supervisors than prior to the intervention.Department members were apprehensive that the Culture Change Monitor survey scores may not be very high primarily because they were concerned that not enough time had passed for progress to be made. This was not the case. While the improved scores speak for themselves, feedback from interviews was also captured to assess the progress made. Comments from crewmembers include: Communication has drastically improved around here causing us to work better as a team which has impacted the decisions made and the impact on the operation has been extremely beneficial. Now I really enjoy my job there is a much better team environment.

Since the OD initiative, leaders in this department have sought out to make frontline crewmembers happy and have fulfilled their requests. We have become fun again. Numerous projects have been started and finished based on what crewmembers said was important in the Denison survey. The newsletters are very informative and the onboarding process is a huge improvement.

Passing the Baton The organizational development and culture change work in the SOC continues today. The SOC leadership team owns the process and the culture of the department, making the OD teams involvement very low and leaderships involvement very high. No longer is the kind of work that resulted from this project considered additional duties that leadership must perform. Because the OD consultant set the foundation from the beginning by delegating key tasks to stakeholders, having clear sponsorship and having accountable leaders, a mindset shift has occurred the idea that creating a high performing culture is part of every leaders job. This shift has created a new way of doing business as leaders realize that better performance and organizational success can be achieved through continuous improvement. The action plan that resulted from the Culture Change Monitor Survey is underway and biweekly working sessions are held to execute the plan. JetBlue plans to continue their work with the Denison Organizational Culture Survey, administering the survey annually to assess strengths and weaknesses. So as Flight 15 bound for Macao prepares for another departure, the System Operations Center team is better able to prepare crewmembers for success, leading to the consistent delivery of the Air Asia Experience. The captain receives accurate information from the dispatcher in a friendly, timely manner. The crew is upbeat as they know exactly where and when they are supposed to report for their flight. The possible disruption to the flight due to the late-arriving aircraft is avoided as the leaders of each team within the SOC communicate

to each other in an efficient, effective manner. The customers, unaware of the activity behind the scenes now driven by improved processes, tools, and more satisfied crewmembers, sit back and enjoy Air Asias service.