In an excellent and instructive first day of the joint CANSO/EUROCONTROL organised Global Resilience Summit, many of the speakers categorised aspects of resilience into groups of three, each with a slightly different purpose and perspective and ultimately leading to this proposal for one more group of three (but we’ll get to that later).
In recognition of the interconnectedness of our industry, Eurocontrol Director General Eamonn Brennan began the day by calling for resilience across the whole aviation value chain, not just in ATM. He introduced the three aspects of resilience to be examined by the Summit: HUMAN, ORGANISATIONAL and TECHNOLOGICAL. CANSO’s Simon Hocquard picked up on the theme, describing the three common factors he has observed across organisations that tend to weather storms (such as Covid-19) the best: PREPAREDNESS, INNOVATION and AGILITY.
Keynote speaker, diplomat and Olympic medallist Dr Cath Bishop, drew on her experiences as a topflight athlete alongside her time serving in conflict hotspots such as Kabul and South Sudan to observe that ‘resilience is a team sport’ and identify CLARITY, CONSTANT LEARNING and CONNECTION as essential to building performance and resilience. She asked, what matters? What has lasting value? What gets you up in the morning? Having clarity on the answers to these questions and knowing what success looks like is the starting point. From there we need to be able to grow from what we experience, to reflect on the learning points and adapt and improve. The mantra from her sporting days was: “will it help the boat go faster?” And finally, resilience relies on strong personal and professional connections. Investing proactively in those relationships, getting to know the person behind the role, listening more than you speak, and finding out what you have in common, were all top tips – alongside an acknowledgement of the power of storytelling as a tool for making sense of experiences.
EUROCONTROL’s Dr Steve Shorrock offered three different Cs in discussing the challenges for resilience: CHANGE, COMPLEXITY and CONSTRAINTS, and supplemented them with three Rs as pre-requisites or building blocks: RELATING, REFLECTING and RESOURCES. These Rs were drawn from the interviews he recently undertook as editor of EUROCONTROL’s HindSight magazine with a fascinating range of experts from outside of aviation on the topic of resilience. They underlined the importance of creating human connection to challenge silos and generate peer support (for adaptation and change). The interviews also highlighted the real risks that arise the higher you go in the ranks of an organisation of creating ‘echo chambers’ of like-minded thought and opinion (a bit like what we see in social media). He observed that we ‘tread the line between autonomy and belonging’ but need to make sure that we take the time to reflect properly on failure and not just move straight on to the next task. And lastly, on resourcing, the speakers emphasised how investing in training and focusing on team inputs was essential to resilience.
For the FAA, Tim Arel described the lessons learned from dealing with the Chicago ATC Centre fire back in 2014, and the parallels with the Covid-19 pandemic. In both instances the FAA set up a Joint Crisis Action Team (JCAT) pulling in distinct experts (eg medics), communicating and collaborating with stakeholders in flexible ways, empowering personnel to be innovative and flexible. One of the few speakers not to have a group of three anything, Tim was asked how to measure resilience, and what KPIs they used? He observed that they stuck to existing KPIs but placed training and certification at the centre of daily reporting because it was key to service delivery. The FAA organised daily calls with 4000 invited managers during the early days of Covid-19, an example of the importance of communication and collaboration.
Dr Hassan Shahidi of the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) broke the mould by referencing the five elements to resiliency studied by the FSF: business continuity, safety management systems and risk assessment processes, ability to monitor and detect hazards and perform a risk analysis, change management process and government/industry collaboration. The interim results of the FSF research led him to conclude that communications and information sharing at all levels are greatly enhanced during a crisis; bringing the right experts together can improve collaborative efforts and decision making; having business continuity plans helps organisations better mobilize, execute and transform with agility; resilient organisations are better at leveraging and applying established processes; and that leadership is critical at all levels – positive cultures are led from the top. He added that continuously learning during a crisis enhances resiliency and that resilient organisations recognise and address the health and wellbeing of their workforce.
Egis’ Ben Stanley focused on being clear about your motives for resilience – he set out three questions to answer: WHY do we need to be resilient at an organisational level? WHAT role could organisational resilience play in safe and efficient ATM services? And therefore, HOW can we measure resilience? Does it go beyond emergency response? If so, why? What KPIs could then be used? Ben offered the following definition of resilience: The ability to adjust to meet evolving performance or service delivery goals or needs, in a sustainable and healthy manner, responding to changing external context, disruption or stresses. It goes beyond aviation’s current focus on contingency planning, and tries to link to the full ecosystem, including our culture, healthy teams and the abilities to develop new structures such as horizontally integrated data services.
He illustrated the lack of scalability of ANS provision with some data from the latest CANSO Global Benchmarking Working Group Survey, which showed that the total cost of the service, normalised per IFR flight hour in USD, has more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, primarily due to costs reducing by only 1.3% on average, even as traffic levels dropped by over 60%. However, this hid a much wider range of values, illustrating the different experiences of ANS providers depending on their traffic mix, structure and indeed, their response to the crisis. Ben concluded by calling for a wider framework of resilience measures and actions, otherwise we risk preparing ourselves for the problems that just happened, and not for the uncertainties to come.
Looking back on this session dedicated to organisational resilience, we might offer another group of three to help sum up the key points: learning, leadership and leverage.
LEARNING is essential to resilience, as Cath Bishop said: “we have to be world class at improving”. That means making the organisation a safe place to learn, having processes to capture and evaluate experiences, and then integrate the learning points into our SOPs so that we become more resilient. It also means being open to collaboration, because learning will sometimes come from outside of our immediate organisation.
LEADERSHIP is vital to influencing sound decision making and modelling the behaviours, mindsets and relationships that will form the bedrock of a resilient organisation. Communication will be key to success, with chaos thriving in a vacuum. Tim Arel recalled daily ‘all manager’ calls at the start of the Covid-19 crisis, which are now weekly or bi-weekly as ‘normality’ has returned. Active communication also meant managing expectations of customers so they could communicate with their customers. But he also warned about the impact of crisis fatigue on leaders and teams, and the need to support their wellbeing.
LEVERAGE the training and processes that you have practiced and prepared already. In stress situations your teams will have confidence to act on known principles and space to be innovative and adapt to new pressures. Dr Hassan Shahidi advised against reinventing the wheel, instead making sure that the processes, relationships and skills/expertise are already in place – which means resourcing and investment in training before, during and after the event.
Our thanks to CANSO and EUROCONTROL for organising the event. If readers have questions about organisational resilience and in particular the KPIs for measuring it, please contact Ben Stanley.