LSG Skychefs New Zealand with its parent company Lufthansa, is currently trying to implement and drive sustainable change throughout the company. This process started off with the deployment of a new management group and with a focus on an environment that allows, encourages and supports a changing market place. In view of the global economy and the airline industry is becoming more competitive and a change in strategy and thinking is required to adapt to new challenges that faces the company. With increases in budget airlines that support a buy on board system to reduce cost, productivity and innovation needed to be addressed.
Traditionally employees saw change as lip service and that factor combined with fear forced the company to address these issues from a different and innovative angle. This meant that change needed to be addressed from the bottom and to make it sustainable it required a management team that supports change. It needed to be aligned with the company’s vision and values. It required building up trust and that the employees could see and feel that their voice made a difference. Two major categories are identified as conversation stoppers. The first is a lack of time and the second is a lack of trust.
LSG started this year with workshops that could produce these results and that will not end up in another failure to move the company forward. This has to align with the lean manufacturing principles as such, as well as with the LSG values and vision
To achieve this, the Kaizen method is used in the workshops. The system targets continuous improvement of processes and human resources. This is done to achieve long term results and serves as a mirror to employees to show that their voice makes a difference. The aim is to provide higher efficiency and a better and more productive working environment. This should provide us with a motivated and more productive team in the long run. Kaizen is a Japanese term that translates as improvement. Kai means change and zen means good.
The LPS projects would identify small projects (Projects are two weeks in duration and has a small scope to ensure that it can be achieved. There are 28 projects per year and it is an on-going program.) Employees are identified from the floor and it is voluntary to participate. Implementation is done by the employee (with the support of management) who identified the scope of the workshops at their own workstation.
Employees get the opportunity to identify five things that would make their work easier. This is then submitted as an idea for a workshop. This is then rated and if it achieves a high score in the ratings it becomes a workshop. Initially this was driven from the APAC regional office in Hong Kong. The initial workshops were run by the regional office. In this process six people in Auckland were trained as facilitators to run the process on a continuous basis. Managers are required to attend the daily briefings on the workshops. This aspect opens up communication channels, reduces fear and builds trust.
In LSG the following criteria apply when a project starts. Know the employee. This is important because the individual that identified the problem is also an active part of the implementation. Therefor it is important to understand the employee’s needs that need to be rationalised in the scope of the project to avoid negative interpretation. When approving a project, managers assess what a positive result should look like. It is important to weigh the outcomes against the financial impact, how realistic the goal is and what the gain for the team is. This should create a win-win for the company and the employees.
Urgency and scope is established first. This is the stage when employees identify the changes that they would like to see within a department. Once this is done the twenty four projects for the year is identified. At this stage the stakeholders, cost and benefits of the change is established. Creating and communicating the vision is the next step. The need for the change is then communicated and the project team is established. The third stage is drive, commitment and empowerment. The workforce is engaged in planning the change. During this data collecting period the cost and benefits are validated when the baseline is determined. The next step is the implementation. This is when the employee is active in implementing the change in their own work area. This seems to be quite successful because the employee is from the team and they see it as a positive change that they are bringing about themselves. The final part is sustaining and refining the change. The progress is measured, the value demonstrated, the success communicated and corrective action is taken if it is needed.
The key challenge to management is the ability to communicate a clear vision of the future. Consistent leadership behaviour in conjunction with continuous leadership development. This includes succession planning and strategic organisational alignment. This is especially important in the airline catering industry, because of the changing environment. Top team unity and the ability to manage change are also vital.
The airline catering industry is becoming more competitive due to market changes such as budget airlines and the whole “Buy-on-Board” concept. Travel is also becoming cheaper and it is a challenge to give a sustainable quality service at a reasonable price.
This far the change indicators in LSG are; Processes are linked to results. The company is moving away from hierarchical to horizontal structures. This is evident in the fact that some levels like team leaders are disappearing. Managers are more directly involved and communication is direct to create better communication and trust. There is an inward focus. Knowledge is shared. Avoiding risk has made place for managing risk. The different departments are forming partnerships instead of being silos protecting their own areas.
A simple and effective measurement system to ensure that changes are sustained is vitally important. Measurement tracks progress and should involve both managers and employees. The result should be visually displayed. In LSG we use dashboards that display the tracking of the company’s results on a month to month basis. These dashboards would have information on first pass yield, delays and FAC’s (Flight attendant comments.) it would track different airlines and shows which teams are performing exceptionally.
LSG seems to be on the right track in creating sustainable change. Although it is a painstakingly slow process as such changes are noticeable after the first year. Employees are part of a team and this makes the rest of the team more open to changes.
A factor to guard against would be that too much can be changing at any given stage and fatigue could set in. Another would be better training for the talent pool. As a management group we should guard against promoting people because they can do the job, instead of strategically planning who would be the best fit in which position and improving their skills. A drawback is that knowledge in some areas are quite specialised and new recruits takes time to learn the business although it seems that it is worth the cost to bring renewal about.
On the positive side there are several plusses. The employees are aware of where the company is going. Better communication increased trust and projects such as LPS makes the company more transparent. The workshops make employees accountable and also make them a part of the cause. This seems to help in overcoming resistance to change. A lot of these changes are employee initiated and managers have a role as a changing agent to facilitate and support this. Clear communication and a free flow of information also increase trust. Due to this, employees’ feels empowered and does not see this as a road to nowhere anymore. Measurable change indicators allow management to measure improvements and to institute corrective actions if needed.
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