Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lessons Learned From Maintenance Mergers

Article at Aviation Week by Heather Baldwin on 23 December 2010

Quoting Hal Heule, president of HMH Consulting, who was senior VP technical operations during the America West-US Airways merger.

"There are three standout issues maintenance organizations should have a plan to address."

1. Communication. The announcement of a merger causes immediate distraction in any workplace. (Will I have a job, will it change, will I have to move?). "It is important to address them head-on, repeatedly, with solid information. Otherwise, rumors and misinformation will take over and degrade job performance, increasing the likelihood of a maintenance error."

2. Training. Heule’s biggest “lesson learned” from the America West-US Airways merger was in the area of training. “I wish we’d done more of it, and I wish we had done it better,” he says. If he had to do it all again, he would "beef up the training department and slow down the training process, devoting more time, attention and resources to this critical area." By neglecting the “why” in training people try to answer it themselves and overlook what they need to learn about the new organisation. If employees are not 100% onboard with why the new way will be better, that limits their ability to engage with the material.

3. Integration workload. Not surprisingly, it takes a lot of work to integrate two major airlines. Maintenance leaders cannot expect to handle the added workload and still fully perform their jobs.

Where there are redundancies, consider redeploying personnel to areas such as training, which need more attention. Another option is to split the workload: give one person responsibility for merger issues while another runs the day-to-day airline operations.

Taking the time to manage communications, plan out training that addresses the “why” behind forthcoming changes, and keeping all maintenance personnel employed through the merger—even if it means assigning new, merger-related responsibilities—vastly reduces the human factors issues that can lead to error.

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