Written by Captain Hagay Goffer
“The easiest, simplest, cheapest and most efficient way to manage an airline, is according to the regulations”.
This simple truth is sometimes learnt the hard way, by too many airline managers.
An airline is a very dynamic business, which has to respond to daily events – failures, delays, weather conditions, passenger related problems, and much more. Operations managers and fleet managers have to face endless, time consuming tasks, just to assure that everything is resolved effectively, in real time. Of course, handling many of these tasks can be delegated to others. However, the personal responsibility to make sure that all these operations are performed in accord with all rules and regulations – is indivisible.
Operations revolving aircraft operation are always complex, and involve the work of dozens, and more often thousands of employees, who in turn must be coordinated, and they need to rely on each other to have the job done safely, legally and effectively (in that order).
The only management tool that enables all this, and assures that each employee does exactly what he/she needs to do, properly, is the existence of operating procedures; ones that are clear, updated and correct.
The existence of an updated literature system, that contains everything an employee needs in order to perform his job, is a management necessity. Without it, it would be impossible to keep all employees efficiently synchronized. The only way for an operations manager to uphold his responsibility for a safe, legal and efficient operation across the airline, is by knowing that he provides his employees with the right and updated literature.
Amongst some executives in the industry, there’s a tendency to regard all the laws and regulations as a Draconian monster, which overloads the aviation process, incurs extra costs and causes loss of time and money. This alleged conflict between cost-effectiveness and compliance with all laws and regulations, brings about a confusing message which, in turn, suggests to employees that “it’s OK to ‘cut corners’ – we’re just saving some money”.
Admittedly, the exhausting complexity of managing and updating the airline’s literature creates time saving shortcuts, thus creating “holes” within procedures. As a result, these procedures are not being treated properly, not instructed properly, and eventually not implemented and enforced properly.
When the operations manager does not provide the employees with the most basic tool – an updated procedure – he cannot expect that everything will go as planned. A resourceful employee (or manager) will usually find a way to cut corners, skip unclear procedures, and actually do this with all the best intentions, believing he helps the company by saving time and expenses.
This management culture may perhaps prove to be commercially effective in the short run, and internally, but as we all know, it is nothing short of destructive in the long run, and sometimes sooner than one expects.
When “operations” becomes a somewhat autonomous and self sustained activity, rather than being enforced and controlled, occurrences that no one planned for or thought about start to surface. These can range from mutilation and loss of equipment, waste of resources and manpower, and up to safety events. Yes, one may disregard some regulations, and perhaps never get caught, but anyone with accumulated experience in aviation knows that the regulations are the result of accumulated, systemic wisdom of many years.
In this sense, airline managers must realize the relevant wisdom: An airline’s interest in maintaining an updated literature, and adhering to it, is in fact entirely in line with its commercial interests!
When management, across all levels, works to maintain up to date procedures, train upon them, and work with them – any manager can rest assured that the system (or operation) he is in charge of performs the tasks as intended, and according to the desired standards.
The airline where I serve as captain, made the transition from “regular operation”, where managers are constantly “extinguishing fires”, to an operation that adopted the phrase at the beginning of this article – “The easiest, simplest, cheapest and most efficient way to manage an airline, is according to the regulations”. Either way you look across the operation – there no longer a need to explain, no longer a need to invent; everyone does exactly what he needs to do, according to regulations!
Here lays the manager’s responsibility, and his most crucial task: provide your employees with updated Literature!
The existence of “controlled literature” is a management necessity that can keep the circle “Documented à Implemented à Quality Assuranceà“ going. Literature that contains thousands of pages, forms, licenses, and more, must be updated at all times. In order to obtain the accuracy level required, in such a dynamic and demanding environment, there is no other choice but to implement a computerized documentation management system, for keeping, updating and distributing that literature.
The responsibility to provide the employee, at any time, access to the most current literature, can be solved with relative ease by using a Content Management System (CMS) that allows access from anywhere, via the Internet. This is also referred to as a web based system.
In order for such a system to be relevant for aviation uses, it must be simple and accessible to every employee, everywhere, at all times. Moreover, in order to justify (and ease) its implementation, it should also be intuitive, allow for short setup and customization times, and be clearly and intuitively adopted by the operations’ manager.