JetBlue Airways & Organizational Development: Partners for Change


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The Denison Organizational Culture Change Monitor Survey 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 survey’s debriefing sessions, a feedback meeting accompanied by an action planning session was conducted by the OD consultant with leadership to discuss the results.

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JetBlue Airways & Organizational Development: Partners for Change

  1. 1. Volume 2, Issue 1, 2007 casestudy JetBlue Airways & Organizational Development: Partners for Change Pulling Off the JetBlue Experience In this tumultuous environment a critical need emerged As JetBlue Airways Flight 15 taxis to the runway at to proactively investigate the department’s strengths, JFK International Airport bound for Fort Lauderdale, weaknesses, and areas where transformation was customers enjoy the JetBlue Experience in their needed to be prepared for the future. To address comfortable leather seats while flipping through 36 this need, a partnership between the SOC and the channels of live television. While most of the customers Organizational Development (OD) team within JetBlue on Flight 15 can tell you they appreciate the on-time University (the airline’s centralized learning group) was departure and seamless execution of the “experience,” forged. The goal of this partnership was to create they may not realize the level of complexity behind the a stronger foundation within the SOC by building a scenes to safely and efficiently operate a major airline. healthier organizational culture that will support JetBlue’s crewmembers and customers and enable a consistent The System Operations Center (SOC) is the heart of the delivery of the JetBlue Experience. airline – the epicenter where effective decision making, communication, teamwork, and leadership are critical Let’s Get Engaged to ensure that crewmembers (JetBlue vernacular for Managing the daily operational performance of a major employees) are able to meet and exceed customer airline is a full-time job. So how would leaders and needs. This department has a direct impact on ensuring crewmembers within the department find the time that JetBlue’s vision of “bringing humanity back to air to engage themselves in this improvement process? travel” is achieved. Today, the SOC is comprised of five The on-time departure of Flight 15 alone (one of 500 teams, including Maintenance Control, System Control, daily flights) requires the full attention of the SOC team Crew Services, Dispatch, and BlueWatch (i.e. security). including: • dispatchers who must monitor weather and generate By fostering an environment that puts crewmembers the flight plan for the cockpit crew first, JetBlue Airways has broken new territory in an • crew schedulers who activate a reserve flight industry known for bad customer service and disgruntled attendant and a pilot to ensure the aircraft is employees. The low-cost airline entered the market in adequately staffed 2000 and has survived competition from major airlines; • maintenance controllers who communicate to the its main competitors being American Airlines and Delta maintenance department at JFK when a part needs Air Lines. As JetBlue grew and changed, a culture shift to be changed prior to departure occurred. Processes that once were sufficient became • SOC managers who coordinate an aircraft swap outdated. The 150 crewmembers of the SOC were at the for the flight when the scheduled plane is delayed forefront of these organizational changes, which included inbound to JFK turnover in leadership, expansion into international markets, increased number of departures, and the These key players represent the teamwork required by introduction of a new fleet type. Compounding the stress the diverse departments who together comprise the of these internal changes were the external pressures of SOC team. Their decisions directly impact customer competing carriers emerging from bankruptcy, increased and crewmember satisfaction as well as bottom-line fuel prices, as well as an increasing number of low-fare performance. carriers entering the marketplace. All content © copyright 2005-2006 Denison Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved. l l Page 1
  2. 2. These same people, while recognizing their success in getting Flight 15 off the ground today, realize that tomorrow’s 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 JetBlue 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. Project Overview Project Data Action Follow-up & Request & Planning Collection Planning & Phase Assessment Contracting & Review Implementation Request from Communication Focus groups Working team Change Monitor SVP received plan created and & interviews alignment & feedback launched conducted conducted sessions Key stakehold- ers identified by Data Evaluation plan Weekly OD Interviews SVP & COO collection plan created meetings with including tools rotating director Best practices & Activities Contract for Denison as leader lessons learned including key collection Organizational deliverables created Culture Survey Crewmember Action drafted & conducted involvement planning approved plan created Sponsorship Participation Data & Themes Buy-in & Momentum & & Scope Secured Relationships Process Accountability Results Defined Built Development Maintained Tell Us What You’re 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. JetBlue 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. JetBlue 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 JetBlue, 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 department’s 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 several focus groups from all departments and all levels within the SOC were conducted to gain insight into the perceived strengths and All content © copyright 2005-2006 Denison Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved. l l Page 2
  3. 3. weaknesses of the department. As an internal and interpreted (These guidelines are to be developed representative in the organization, the OD consultant once departmental and team goals are finalized.) was able to leverage existing relationships with SOC crewmembers, creating a comfortable environment for The OD consultant stressed to the leadership team crewmembers to speak openly and honestly during that focusing on a few relevant areas was much more interviews and focus groups. effective than creating a laundry list of opportunities. The correlation of these themes with the Denison After synthesizing the data, the OD consultant met with Model would also provide a platform to monitor the SOC leadership to interpret the data during a one-day department’s progress and to build accountability into the working session. During the session, the details of the process. Denison model were explored and case studies were reviewed to ensure that the participants understood Navigating the Roadmap the model so they would be able to interpret their own Collecting and analyzing the data was only the first results. Additionally, the leadership team spent time step in the change process. The OD consultant met anticipating and discussing what their results may look regularly with each member of the SOC leadership team like before seeing them. individually to educate them about the role of leadership during the change process, reasons why people resist Once some initial hypotheses were presented, the change, and how to develop strategies to overcome that results were reviewed and the group was able to focus resistance. their attention on two things that were working well (high scores on the survey) and two things that were not The five themes were communicated to the entire working well (low scores on the survey). The group then organization through an appreciative email from the reviewed specific information about the gap in scores Senior Vice President. In addition, the OD consultant between directors and managers. This gap illustrated facilitated intensive weekly meetings for the first month to important perception differences between these develop and execute an extensive action plan. However, leadership levels, about the SOC department as a whole, leadership knew that a single email and a weekly meeting as well as their respective team results. behind closed doors would not be enough to gain the crewmember buy-in necessary to transfer those themes In summarizing the information captured from the into action. In order to capture the hearts and minds of Denison Organizational Culture Survey, the focus groups, the crewmembers in the SOC and to bring credibility to and the interviews, five key themes were identified and the effort, leadership needed to “walk the talk” to truly translated into action. These key themes correlated become a higher performing culture. Leadership ensured directly with specific indices on the Denison Model, that their behaviors were in line with the verbal and reaffirming the models value to strategy development and written communications that were dispersed. Directors culture change: and managers attended weekly action planning meetings, 1. Goals and Objectives - Communicate meaningful and consistently participated in goal setting sessions, and understandable departmental and team goals that are took time to meet with frontline crewmembers about the aligned with the company goals. vision and the action plan. An action planning roadmap, 2. Crewmember Development - Provide technical including goals, deadlines and responsible owners, was and soft skills training to support crewmembers by created and displayed in the middle of the SOC to serve establishing a partnership with JetBlue University. as a visual reminder of the changes that were underway. 3. Customer Focus - Gain insight and respond to internal customers’ needs by defining consistent In addition to visible leadership support and extensive processes and increasing internal communication. communication, creating a coalition of crewmembers 4. Willingness to Change - Identify and adopt new ways that would serve as ambassadors was critical to to work to achieve goals and manage growth with the successful implementation of the five themes. the tools and resources available by utilizing internal Crewmembers within the SOC were nominated by their resources, developing strategic plans, and creating peers to serve on a “roundtable.” The purpose of the forums to generate innovative ideas. “roundtable” was to get frontline crewmembers – real 5. Guidelines - Develop guidelines that can be followed All content © copyright 2005-2006 Denison Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved. l l Page 3
  4. 4. - involved in the change process. In essence, the group department in order to track stated goals, provide was designed to help implement changes to improve current updates, and reward and recognize performance based on the feedback from the data crewmembers. collection. At least once a month, this group would meet to discuss issues, provide updates about changes that 2. Crewmember Development: were underway, and remove obstacles that potentially • Conduct a complete needs assessment in order to blocked the new vision from being achieved. identify the specific training needs and performance support requirements of SOC crewmembers. Finally, in order for crewmembers within the department • Develop training common to all of the teams in to quickly see that the effort was producing quantifiable the SOC such as stress management and phone results, short-term wins were identified. Town hall customer service skills training. meetings with senior leadership were instituted; • Develop an orientation program to familiarize new professional development courses began; and an crewmembers with the roles, communication on-boarding program to help new crewmembers processes, software, and key regulatory guidelines of successfully join the team was rolled out. Leadership each team within the SOC. actively looked for opportunities to obtain marked improvements so the project’s excitement and sense of 3. Customer Focus: urgency was maintained. To reiterate the department’s • Create process and communication maps that the ownership of the data and the execution of the resulting SOC can follow during irregular operations in order action plan, the OD consultant transferred the weekly to ensure consistent decision-making and a positive meeting facilitation responsibilities to the SOC Directors experience for crewmembers and customers. within the first month. The Directors took turns • Leverage a company-wide shadow program to allow facilitating the meetings on a rotating basis, symbolizing SOC crewmembers to gain insight into other teams their buy-in and commitment to the initiative. Each inside and outside the department. week was considered to be a working session and all efforts were aligned with the key themes. Out of those 4. Willingness to Change: weekly sessions, detailed action plans were created and • Create and maintain a coalition of change executed in relation to the five themes: ambassadors to serve on a “roundtable” committee to develop plans, execute action plans, and identify 1. Goals and Objectives: challenges and potential obstacles. • Create a compelling vision in order to create alignment across levels among different teams and 5. Guidelines: to inspire the actions of the people in the department • Once goals have been set forth for the department, regarding their decision making and overall the development of guidelines will begin based on motivation. individual team needs. • Conduct goal setting session in order to be able to communicate meaningful and understandable Maintaining the Momentum departmental and team goals that are aligned The tremendous amount of work that SOC leaders with the company goals so SOC crewmembers contributed to make these actions possible created a understand how their decisions supported the goals positive atmosphere in the working meetings and met of the organization. the needs of the SOC crewmembers. With all the work • Schedule town hall meetings where the president, that went into making the SOC a better organization, CEO, and other leaders communicate the state it would have been easy to declare victory. However, of the organization and reinforce the vision of the instead of simply celebrating the launch and completion company with crewmembers. of various initiatives that resulted from the hard work • Improve overall teamwork and cross-departmental of the crewmembers, a follow-up Denison survey was relationships through quarterly off–site events such administered to reassess the state of the department as a Manhattan scavenger hunt, BBQs and softball and to adapt the action plan accordingly. The five themes games. were resurveyed to formally assess the progress that • Send bi-monthly leadership newsletters to the All content © copyright 2005-2006 Denison Consulting, LLC All rights reserved. l l Page 4
  5. 5. 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 Monitor Survey 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 survey’s 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. JetBlue System Operations JetBlue System Operations JetBlue Systems Operations Center Previous Results Previous Results Current Results Current Results Previous Results Current Results External Focus Focus External External Focus Focus External 66 66 72 72 45 45 29 29 80 80 45 45 Beliefs and Beliefs and Beliefs and Beliefs and Flexible Flexible Stable Stable Flexible Flexible Stable Stable Assumptions Assumptions Assumptions Assumptions 33 33 65 65 Internal Focus Focus Internal Internal Focus Focus Internal Using the Denison Organizational Culture Survey: Change Monitor, JetBlue compared their scores in four key N=N=73 N = 91= 91 areas of the Denison Model 73 their original scores in February 2006. These circumplexes show the improve- to N ment in scores eight months after the implementation of the change initiative. While the improved scores speak for themselves, feedback from interviews was also captured to assess the JetBlue progress made. Comments from crewmembers include: JetBlue SB 2004 SB 2004 25-Aug-06 25-Aug-06 • “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.” All content © copyright 2005-2006 Denison Consulting, LLC All rights reserved. l l Page 5
  6. 6. Table 1: Changes over Time Theme Level Previous New Percent Score Score Change “Communication Goals & Objectives Directors 97 90 -7 has drastically Managers 15 66 51 improved Supervisors 12 64 52 throughout our Crewmember Development Directors 92 94 2 department Managers 15 86 71 resulting in Supervisors 4 94 90 better decision Customer Focus Directors 85 95 10 making -- which Managers 44 91 47 has benefited Supervisors 12 79 67 our operation” Willingness to Change Directors 97 97 0 -JetBlue Airways Crewmember. Managers 12 71 59 Supervisors 86 96 10 Guidelines** Directors 4.33 (mean) Managers 3.30 (mean) Supervisors 3.86 (mean) **Custom questions designed by JetBlue, results are reflected as mean scores on a scale of 1 (Strongly Dis- agree) to 5 (Strongly Agree). All others denote percentiles. 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 team’s involvement very low and leadership’s 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 leader’s 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 bi-weekly 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 Fort Lauderdale prepares for another departure, the System Operations Center team is better able to prepare crewmembers for success, leading to the consistent delivery of the JetBlue 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 JetBlue’s leather seats, DIRECTV® programming and award-winning service. Contact Information Copyright Information Denison Consulting, LLC Text by: Brian J. Glaser, JetBlue Airways 121 West Washington, Suite 201 Copyright 2005-2007 Denison Consulting, LLC Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104 All Rights Reserved. Phone: (734) 302-4002 Unauthorized reproduction, in any manner, is prohibited. Fax: (734) 302-4023 The Denison model, circumplex and survey are trade- Email: marks of Denison Consulting, LLC. All content © copyright 2005-2006 Denison Consulting, LLC All rights reserved. l l Page 6