On 27 January HBR published a case study by Ethan Bernstein and Ryan Buell with the question, ‘Can an airline cut turn times without adding staff?’
Here is our response to the HBR Case Study:
RSA Ground can improve both quality and turn times, without creating stress on the system or staff.
First of all, if you are on time, but there’s still trash on the floor and the airplane smells bad, that’s not good work. RSA Ground needs to think about the expected quality of the completed cleaning work, rather than just the turn time. The poor quality could cost more for RSA than having the benefit of efficiency. Are customers going to be less disappointed in finding a dirty toilet than the small delay in boarding a plane? I doubt that! Still for the sake of operational excellence, let’s try to decrease the turn time, without sacrificing quality or budget.
To improve process, you need to give the team enough time to come up with an effective, stress free method to improve what they are doing. And then practice, practice, practice this to ensure it meets the desired outcome. And everyone should be in on it. Including you, Nubuo! As for the method, well… we need the best standard flow: least amount of movement with no rework. If in this you identify a specific skill for someone – well, give them proper training. Then comes the variation. There are different types of planes, so it makes no sense to use the same method for each plane. So each type of plane may need a different sized team to reach the target 12 minutes.
Lady Stopwatch? I mean it’s a pretty mean nickname, but if it builds the team towards a common enemy, keep the name! Humour aside, you want Lady Stopwatch to facilitate process, but it sounds like she is under a whole lot of pressure. Middle management… they are kind of important because they are like a bridge. Lady Stopwatch has a lot on her plate, so empower her, as well as the cleaning crew! In metaphorical terms, her team needs some ‘runaway’ time from the board (part of the 20% budget), to take off. The company must recruit people who have intrinsic motivation to do the job, can improve the end-to-end processes and if possible have a sense of humour to overcome the repetitive nature of the work – all for a fair wage.
Ketan Varia & Burcu Atay
Ketan Varia is the Director of Kinetik Solutions Ltd, a management consultancy based in London, UK. www.kinetik.uk.com
Tel: +44 20 3397 0686