Leadership and Organisation in the Aviation Industry is a dense and well written book about different how different professional cultures interact. The book is based upon a PhD by Marc-Philippe Lumpé. He basis his analysis the GLOBE project and how that relates to the aviation industry The GLOBE project (global leadership and organisational behaviour effectiveness research project incorporated the ILT and HOFSTEDEs dimensions into one unique study. In short it looked at national culture and how different cultures adapt to such things as: uncertainty avoidance, power distance, social collectivism, future orientation etc. The theoretical basis of this book centres around this study and how it helps us understand different national and professional cultures.
Mr Lumpé who has many years of experience in the aviation industry, both as a pilot and as a manager, then adapts this study to professional cultures and specifically those that work in the aviation industry. The aviation industry has, by most insiders eyes, a very strong professional culture. People tend to work in the industry for quite a long time. There is a tendency not to change companies as might be done in other industries, and often people will remain in the same position for the forty years of their career. Pilots are a very good example, if they go from one company to another; they are required to reduce their pay scale and their level of seniority. This of course dissuades them from doing it, since they are relatively well paid; they tend to stay in the same job for forty years. Mr Lumpé describes this as living in a golden cage.
Of course, the aviation industry is rather a large and generic term, since many people work in different sectors within that industry. Just as in any other industry therefore, people working in different sectors will have different behaviours. This is the real added value of this book; Mr Lumpé has identified twelve different types of workers within the industry. Those dealing with strategic management, operations management, Higher administration, middle administration, service providers, innovation and development, project leaders, production experts, pilots, IT experts, flight attendants and blue collar workers.
Having identified these different types of workers, he then brings in the globe dimensions and the Hofstede dimensions to try and understand how these different sectors behave or adapt. The results which are plotted out are quite remarkable. It shows that flight attendants have a very low future orientation dimension; however strategic management has a very high one. This is useful to know when dealing in industrial relations, often senior management try to bring in changes designed to make the company stronger in 5-10 years’ time. These are resisted by such people as flight attendants. Often this based on their perception of how companies should be organised and their future orientation. Senior management therefore, needs to recognise this and adapt their communication strategy to one which will be heard in a better way. Many examples of industrial action have shown that this is not always done. In fact senior management tell everybody that it’s good for the company in the long term without any recognition that this message might not get through. Another interesting result concerns uncertainty avoidance, this is very high with pilots, but relatively low with the rest of the people in the aviation industry, and very low with strategic management, operation management and administration. Of course it’s logical for a pilot to have high uncertainty avoidance, this is quite reassuring since it is clear that they are not going to take risks with several hundred people including you and I, when they have a plane in the sky. However the strategic management are not confronted with such problems, again and indeed they have to deal with and uncertain macroeconomic world where prices are always changing, as are supply and demand. Again in any kind of labour relations or communications, this needs to be taken into account. When changes are made therefore, if senior management are talking to pilots, they need to give them as many reassurances as possible. Otherwise their message will simply not be heard.
Since it is based on an academic study and a PhD, the book is perhaps not the lightest read for the beach. However, for anyone interested in or working in the aviation industry it is well worth looking at. Chapter 7 in particular plots out the different results to the globe dimensions as perceived by people within the aviation industry. It is useful for people not only working in the airline industry, but also for people working in such companies as: EADS or Boeing who are making planes, or airport management. The methodology behind the book can be also adapted to other industries to get a clear indication on how professional cultures can change depending on the type of workers you are dealing with. This may be a great help in any type of industrial relations negation or just in general communication to ensure harmony within the firm.
“The main question in this context is whether the characteristics of the aviation industry, on the one hand, and the characteristics of the employees sampled, on the other, are such that the results gathered in this survey are not just the product of these self-same particularities of the aviation industry.”
“The Blue Collar Workers necessitate a leadership style, which can be subsumed under the term Patriarchal leadership; a leadership style that gives clear guidance and exhibits supportive and protective behaviour towards the employees.”
“Together with the Pilots, the Flight attendants exhibit and idiosyncrasy that is a direct consequence of the specific work environment in which they live: the distinction between a micro- and a macro level of leadership and organisation.”
“The appropriate leadership style on the micro level is based on behaviour that emphasises the following of published rules and procedures in order to provide a maximum level of protection for the individual cabin crew member by sticking to these published rules, so as to create a ‘worry- free’ work environment. Furthermore, it is necessary for the leader to exhibit a Participative and Human Orientated leadership style, as a harmonious and conflict-free working environment is also highly important to the members of the current Professional Culture; where applicable Team- Oriented element should be included.”
“Due to the rather limited occasions on which direct leadership is necessary on the macro-level, it is sufficient for the leader to employ a ‘Management by Exception Approach’ in which the respective leader interacts with the subordinates only in case of arising problems.”
“On the micro-level of leadership, which incorporates the Flight Crew, it is advisable for the leader (the Captain) to be focused on the creation of a positive work atmosphere. This relatively limited focus is based on the fact that most aspects of a Pilot’s life are governed by pre-established rules and procedures, which renders most parts of direct leadership rather obsolete. Hence, the Captain should pursue a leadership style that is based on Team-Orientation and Participative decision taking.”
“The appropriate organisation design for the current Professional Culture should be based on the Bureaucratic Rule according to Weber (1976). The reason for this is the extremely high acceptance of prescribed rules and procedures within the Pilot’s culture, this being a direct consequence of their specific work environment. Hence, maximum use should be made of this possibility in order to integrate efficiently the Pilot’s Professional culture into the organisation.”
“In particular, the verification of the actual appropriateness of the leadership styles and organisation structures developed and the potential to generalise these findings will be highly important for practitioners.”
“For academia, the pursuit of the topic of Professional Cultures and the possible identification of other Professional Cultures and their characteristics should be a priority. This is especially true, as this basic research will be extremely beneficial to areas such as leadership and organisation theory and research in particular and application-orientated areas of academia in general.”
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