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Planning Techniques for Managers

The days of selecting the sharpest pilot or the best engine diagnostician to head the flight department are disappearing. While not gone entirely- the practice of promoting the best operational person to the ranks of management is no longer in vogue.

Jack Olcott   |   1st January 2014
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Jack Olcott Jack Olcott

Possibly the world’s most recognized advocate, if not expert on the value of Business Aviation,...
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The days of selecting the sharpest pilot or the best engine diagnostician to head the flight department are disappearing. While not gone entirely- the practice of promoting the best operational person to the ranks of management is no longer in vogue.

Individuals are more likely to move into the corner office based on knowledge of management techniques and skills in organizing programs and motivating people- rather than achieving a long list of technical accomplishments. Personnel departments and other overseers realize that too often selecting the best practitioner results in a department losing its best pilot or maintenance specialist in return for obtaining an unqualified manager.

Conversely- too many great pilots and mechanics have found the move to management unsatisfactory- in part because their concept of the job was incomplete or flawed. Had they been better informed- they might have realized that their interests and skills were better aligned with their current duties and responsibilities.

More germane to this article and others within World Aircraft Sales Magazine’s section on Flight Department Management Skills- by examining basic techniques of management they might have a better appreciation for the knowledge and skill needed to succeed in a managerial role.

Action Plans

Whereas pilots and mechanics deal basically with objects—aircraft transiting weather systems; care and feeding of sophisticated engines and airframes- for example—managers deal with people.

Thus managers must master many management concepts and techniques—some sophisticated and possibly outside their comfort zone- and others that seem rudimentary but are essential. A subject that falls into this latter category of ‘basic but essential’ is the art and science of planning— especially the need to develop specific plans in writing that apply the best attributes of staff to the task at hand.

Fortunately- aviators have an appreciation for planning—plan your flight; fly your plan- so to speak. In concept- planning techniques applied to piloting and maintenance tasks also apply to managing staff. In practice- however- the planning process for managing people to accomplish specific tasks is unique.

Managers identify an objective—possibly one that has been assigned by a superior— and develop a written plan for achieving that goal. The manager selects a staff- communicates the goal to be accomplished and the measures by which progress toward that goal will be assessed- and then proceeds with monitoring progress and modifying the work flow to achieve the desired results.

The successful manager motivates his or her staff- reviews their actions and rewards behavior that supports the task at hand. In the parlance of checklists- the basic action plan has the following form:

• Establish the objective to be accomplished;
• Develop a plan to accomplish the objective;
• Select the staff to implement the plan;
• Organize the staff according to their attributes;
• Communicate with the staff to assure alignment and understanding;
• Motivate participants- review results- and reward success.

Smart Planning
Although the need to plan is universal- individual managers often develop their own planning methods and action plans. Consider the points that some managers call the “SMART” way to plan- which contains the following elements:

• S = Specific goal(s) to be accomplished.
• M = Measurable tasks.
• A = Achievable interim and final goals.
• R = Realistic work assignments.
• T = Time allocation to meet goal(s) to be accomplished.

A simple memory jogger for planning is the “3M” approach- in which the three Ms are Mission- Means and Measures:

• Specify the Mission to be accomplished;
• Identify and make available the Means to accomplish the Mission;
• Establish the Measures by which progress toward meeting the Mission will be assessed (such as the timeline and budget for accomplishing the Mission).

While these outlines for an Action Plan differ- note that each starts with an objective to be achieved.

Written Plans
Action Plans must be in writing- regardless of what form the manager selects. When plans are condensed to written form- they can be communicated to staff with less possibility of confusion or misunderstanding. Properly conceived- documented and implemented- action plans enable managers to focus the best talents of their people to achieve specific tasks. In the words of the late business guru and teacher Peter Drucker- “Management is doing things right.”

Steven Covey- author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and other books on management- said that “Effective management is discipline- carrying [the plan] out.” Having a written Action Plan is a basic element in being an effective manager.

Action plans serve as a structure for working with people- but they do not guarantee success. The secret ingredient to success is the people who implement the plan. Colin Powell- Former Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff and Secretary of State during the first presidential term of George W. Bush said- “Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”

The team that is tasked with meeting the plan’s objective must be motivated to do its best work. It is the role of the manager to provide leadership that inspires. Planning is basic—a necessary skill. Leadership shapes how well the plan is fulfilled.


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