What Needs to Change to Get Aviation Fit for the Twenty-First Century

How aviation management can adapt to the real time and agile environment and turn the current challenges into opportunities. Or what needs to change to get aviation fit for the 21st century.

The world around us has changed dramatically, particularly since the beginning of the twenty-first century, mainly due to the broad availability of the Internet. Inventions such as smart phones, apps, virtual face to face conversations, coupled with the rise of Facebook, Google, Amazon & Co. added a lot of speed to this development.

The digital revolution empowers the consumer and determines ever increasing expectations. At the same time, latest tech developments such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), blockchain, voice and more create opportunities never seen before. It also means that in contrast to some years ago, technology now enables everything - at a much lower cost than the industry got used to. We just have to be smart to use those opportunities. However, the aviation industry to a large extent has remained stuck in legacy processes and their decades old technology. It also suffers from low profit margins. With a few exceptions aviation management overall struggles how to adapt to the real time and agile environment.

Digital transformation activities have started both in operational as well as commercial areas, but fundamental underlying platforms and culture change in most cases have not yet been addressed. Yet the risk of doing nothing or being too slow is probably the biggest one the industry faces. It just gives direct competitors and new players in the field the advantage to take over.

Time to do things differently and implement more radical change. The 4Bs model, a transformation framework with agile mindset developed by Ursula Silling can be used by management to turn the current challenges into success:

  1. Big and bold vision - starting with "green field" thinking, an ongoing process and overhaul.

  2. Behaviour and mindset - put yourself into your customers shoes, define standards how to work, and create experiences for your staff that you want your customers to have. It does start with us, and too often I have seen that management teams were divided, and too many people just followed their own agenda instead of the best interest of the business.

    “Aviation stakeholders have often feared being exposed to smaller suppliers, and bigger one-stop suppliers have fostered this fear.,,” (Ursula Silling)

  3. Branding and selling - this is not only important with regard to the outside world but starts internally. Once the internal barriers are overcome anything is possible. It will empower people, and change will start to accelerate.

  4. Building - on the basis of continuous improvement. Learn from tech companies and apply agile working methods. Yet speed to market and agile do not match silo and hierarchical thinking and traditional governance but require solution orientation, creativity and lean structures and mindsets. It requires attention to detail and determination to make things happen, end to end thinking and pride in doing things well. This means leadership and staff who are willing to go the extra mile.

Read more here. The above is a summary related to the full chapter written by our Founder & CEO Ursula Silling. It was published in the book "Aviation and Its Management - Global Challenges and Opportunities" in 2018.