United Airlines Case Study

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This presentation provides an overview of the change management work completed in support of United Business Transformmation Office. I served as the BTO\'s change communications lead for all operational changes.

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United Airlines Case Study

  1. 1. Evolving Communication toTransform United’s OperationsStrategic Communication ManagementFall Summit 2005 1
  2. 2. Our World in December 2002 • World’s Sixth Largest Bankruptcy • Historically Tense Labor Relationship • Aggressive Debtor In Possession (DIP) Financial Targets Require a $1.4 Billion Improvement in Operating Income • Global Restructuring Effort • Constant Media Spotlight Survival
  3. 3. The World According to Paul • Concerns of layoffs, pay cuts, outsourcing • Aggressive union campaigns based on speculation • Rumor mill fueled by global media spotlight • Rise in absenteeism • Meeting performance objectives despite daily distractions Survival
  4. 4. The Business Transformation Office Steering Committee Program Management Office Employee Marketing, Code Share Regional Jets Operations Policies Sales Policy Purchasing Airspace Airport Fuel Airport Service Cabin IRROPS/Purchasing Maintenance Catering Management Productivity Consumption Automation Cleanliness OPETE Planeside Operations Program: -Improve operating income by $150 million Bag Room -Maintain operational & service performance Lobby -Drive change across four business units Gate Staffing -Implement across the global network of airports
  5. 5. What That Looked Like to Paul Co rpo Co an l e ns rat s Ch edu ge ul e T ta y h nt pe Sc s & s ci es New Poli Tech nolog New y MEDIA ON Re in F NI on d du orc s e ct e U ng cat cy io fi n ie pli upt Br om kr 25-Year-Old Processes Changing C an B
  6. 6. The Challenge: Shift Our Paradigm From To • Reporting on business • Driving the business • Formal, top-down • Interpersonal communications communications • One-size-fits-all approach • Tailored approach • Focus on communication • Focus on behavior change vehicles • Information push • Influencing front-line conversations Results Orientation: Results Orientation: Meet Service Requests Drive Performance ©2005 Gagen MacDonald LLC
  7. 7. Our Core Approach• Create a seat at the table: Use communications to improve project teams’ efficacy• Don’t boil the ocean: Prioritize work according to greatest risk to the business• Recognize all politics are local: Give the BTO life and breath where it needs to be delivered – the frontline• Teach them to fish: Equip supervisors and managers to lead change on the frontline, every day
  8. 8. Create Seat at Table: Project Management Lite Week of January 27, 2003 • Intra-team communication AIRPORT OPERATIONS REPORT infrastructureLast Monday, we met with Pete McDonald and Larry DeShon for our monthly financial performance review of the AirportOperations projects. The meeting went well: We’re on the right track and meeting our performance commitments.During the meeting, we discussed Dec. 2002 performance and projections for Jan. 2003. Here are the highlights forAirport Operations: December 2002 Performance January 2003 Performance • Strategic view across the entire business unit • Manpower was better than plan for the month and • Bring Sick Leave down. To do so, we will year-to-date. educate supervisors on compliance rules, listen to • Productivity continued to improve. Dec. finished 15 their suggestions and provide necessary support. percent better than plan, with a 5.5-percent • Acquire and install curbside boarding pass improvement from plan for the year. printers on time to ensure related projects stay • Overtime was better than plan for the month and on track. year-to-date. • Sick Leave continued to be the primary challenge, coming in 8.2 percent worse-than-plan in Dec. and 4.2 • Complete detailed project plans by Jan. 29. We will baseline these plans to set measurement targets for the rest of the year. • Visibility into change for percent worse-than-plan for the year. • Sick Leave increased the meeting:One headline came out ofby xx percent. We must meet our budgets in January. With the continued hard work ofour teams, we should be confident of success. contingency planningEASY CHECK-IN UNITS (ECU):Last Week’s Activity (1/20): Updated the on-line demo of ECU with the new Flight Change functionality and process flow. Milestones The team continues to stay on target for the mid-Feb. ECU deployment at BWI and LGA; Q1 implementation of • Streamlined monthly divisional reporting process Secured the availability of the construction/electrical application functionality for NRSA; and, Q2 documents for BWI. implementation of International functionality. Completed the electrical and cabling work for LGA. Worked closer toward documentation for BAA approval at LHR. Challenges: Completed SJC and IND site surveys and layouts. Potential delay of DEN installation. Contributing Act as a neutral venue to drive This Week’s Activity (1/27): factors include airport approval, on-site vendor lead Continue installation at LGA & BWI. times for cabling and electrical work, and additional Training at DEN and SMF. (complicating) infrastructure requirements for other Hold conference call to determine strategies for issue systems implementations (outside ECU). prioritization, issue resolution and resolution at DEN (See Challenges).  Government mandates and UK data requirements may push back scheduled completion of International user requirements beyond the TSA prototype to the first week of Feb. accountability ECU Team PRIORITIES for Week of 1/27:  Develop strategies to mitigate DEN risks (See Challenges).  Prepare for LGA installation on Feb. 3. Questions about ECU? Call Lynda Oros at unitel 700-4591 or Dixie Blaylock at unitel 700-7034.
  9. 9. Don’t Boil the Ocean: Behavioral Risk AssessmentObjective Employee Impact Customer Impact RiskCatering Vendor N/A Slight risk to service LOWContracts levels$29 million Tie your work to the results that matterImprove Airport • New processes Fewer customerProductivity service reps. • New technology HIGH$28 million Significant risk of • New roles service interruption • Schedule changes Based on a Gagen MacDonald LLC Planning Model
  10. 10. Recognize All Politics Are Local: Tailored Project Plans Airport Productivity: Flex Resourcing • Inspire employee action vs. March - April Support March 2003 “show and tell” Objectives:  Maintain on-time leadership while improving baggage-handling performance by at least 20 percent (measured by DOT standards) by year-end 2003.  Move from No. 9 on the DOT performance list to the mid-pack (No. 4 or 5) by year-end 2003.  Decrease the B-side On-line Transfer (ONTR) by 10 percent.  Decrease CG delays on B-side by 50 percent. Engage Ramp Service People in the new Flex Resourcing Process. • Tie to three elements of   Foster a culture of accountability and minimize pushback through employee involvement.  Foster a better relationship between WHQ and the stations. Key Activities Planeside Activity communication & Affected Audiences:  Description – Pilot program to test process changes at ORD and DEN. Move to “floating” system for gate crews (crews assigned to a larger zone vs. a gate); technology enhancements to promote accountability and performance evaluation.  Key Audiences – Ramp Service Employees, Ramp Crew Supervisors, Operating Managers. Risks &  Culture – Today’s culture does not support accountability, which will be an organic Challenges: component of the new processes/systems. Employees who have not been held accountable • Focus on interpersonal for performance in the past may resist their Supervisors holding them accountable now.  New Technology Enhancements – Supervisors must use new system functionality. With DEN, this means feeling comfortable to start using the system in the first place. Most likely, DEN Supervisors will require more-intensive training on the tool. interactions with  Employee Involvement – Recent layoffs, pay cuts and a historically tense relationship between company and labor may all contribute to an unwillingness to cooperate. The impact may be felt in a variety of ways: verbal pushback, work slowdowns, sabotage (“See, I told supervisors you this couldn’t work”), etc.  Consistency of Leadership Skills – The skills of our ORD board leads and supervisors vary. Leadership training (process, skills, real-time decision-making, communications) is required to rollout the gate crawl beyond the pilot program zones.  DEN Management Support – Unlike ORD, DEN’s management team is not actively engaged in (or wildly supportive of) the gate crawl concept. Significant coaching and pre- work is required before the productivity team begins the gate crawl program at DEN.  Limited Automation Support– Ramp employees are taking on more work without the advantage of enhanced systems/technology to soften the impact of the recent reductions (Cf. CSR and Gate changes). Leverage  Ramp employees are competitive with other stations and zones (cycle time and MBTA). Influence frontline conversations where Points:  SFO already uses floating planeside crews. We have an internal resource (best practice) from which to learn.  Most employees care about the customer and want to be involved. Strategies:  Give employees a reason to care about performing: Make top performers visible. the real communication happens    Complement supervisors’ and board leads’ process training with interactive, problem-solving sessions for application. Leverage leadership in a visibility effort that centers on candor and involvement. Use face-to-face interactions as the primary communications vehicle, with supervisors and board leads as the primary messengers.  Solicit feedback and involve employees in finding solutions: Make their contributions visible.  Integrate communications between Fuel Consumption and Airport Productivity teams.Based on a Gagen MacDonald LLC Planning Model
  11. 11. Recognize All Politics Are Local:Avoid the “Corporate Swoop” Flex Resourcing • Employees go where the work goes • Engaged union leads and supervisors in “real world” application team • Team acted as champions on the front line Involve employees in change that affects them and they’ll own it
  12. 12. Teach to Fish:Don’t Create Yet Another Thing To Do• Telling a compelling The whole industry has The manpower cuts are a story changed. What worked five years ago, won’t work reality. Now, we have to work smarter, so we’re today. If we don’t swim, putting our resources• Staying in front of we’ll sink. where the work is. issues We have to give customers a• Creating opportunities reason to choose United: bags play a huge role in that to build rapport choice. We’re leading the We’re learning from our company. ORD was mistakes and listening to Like politicians, we’re out to win chosen because we the customer – and to our perform and deliver. employees’ vote of confidence employees. Adapted from Gagen MacDonald LLC Communication in Action™ Process
  13. 13. Results• Improved our cost structure: – Achieved $229 million in cost savings – Results 48.8% better than plan – Productivity 16% – Costs more than 20%• Record-breaking operational performance: – Ranked No. 1 in industry for on-time departure (YOY) – On-time departure 10 points – On-time arrival 4.3 points – Customer complaints more than 50%
  14. 14. But What About Paul? • “We created a ‘prove ‘em wrong’ culture where employees take personal accountability for performance.” • “We had access to information to manage issues before they became crises.” • “We had tools to battle the union campaigns and take back communications from the unions.” • “Involving employees created processes that stuck.” • “Starting small with pilot efforts made the change more manageable.” • “In the end, we weren’t isolated. Communications helped us present a unified front to employees.”
  15. 15. Implications for Communicators• Put skin in the game• Get comfortable with financial and operating plans• Remember what it feels like on the frontline
  16. 16. Contact Morgan MarzecStrategic Communications Consultant, Gagen MacDonald LLC m.marzec@gagenmac.com 312.282.3321

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