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Aircraft Maintenance Officer - Organizational Universe Model of leadership

I. STATEMENT OF INTENT.

This leadership reflection essay is about the leadership experience of my direct supervisor during my Aerospace Engineering Training (AET). My intent is to use the Organizational Universe Model (OUM) to analyze and reflect on the leadership experience of my previous supervisor.

II. ABSTRACT.

a. Leader. My supervisor was the Aircraft Servicing Officer (ASO) of helicopters. The Crew Chief, a senior technician, was the ASO’s alternate in case of his absence or leave.

b. Team. The ASO team had two crews, day shift and night shift. The team consisted of aviation systems, avionics systems, and aircraft structures technicians of varying levels of experience from apprentices to journeymen to aircraft releasers for operations. The team was responsible for maintaining a total of five helicopters.

c. Team Goals. The goal of the team was to achieve an efficient maintenance process to consistently provide a serviceable aircraft in a timely fashion to the Operations Department (Ops). Their goal was to meet and exceed expectations with a high degree of consistency through technical proficiency, effective use of subject matter experts (SMEs) and welfare support provided by management.

d. Leadership Model. The OUM was selected because it provides a simple, easy-to-understand, and organized means to analyze a new leadership situation as well as assess changes to an existing leadership situation, which can be easily used to develop a leadership plan of action. This model also provides recommended action steps for use in developing courses of action to help in successful management of the team.

e. Main conclusion and lessons learned from application of OUM. The OUM has enabled me to analyze my previous supervisor’s leadership experience using its various elements. Using the values element, I noticed that when the ASO leader had found out that in order to ensure a coordinated effort, he needed first to align the values of his team with the values of the organization. When he realized that his team did not have a solid commitment to goals, he involved his team in setting up goals and communicated them clearly. Using the climate element, he was able to monitor the behavior changes of his team and has used the reward system of the management structure to maintain motivation and encourage his team to stay committed to their goals. Using the environment element, he was able to observe the organization's speed of response to changes in its surroundings, which allowed him to successfully manage the manpower shortage and made the necessary adjustments to prevent his team from being worn out.

III. BACKGROUND.

a. Leader traits. The leader was a smart, talented, young man in his mid-20s. He had excellent communication skills, patient, and hardworking. I never saw him leave at 4 p.m. He comes to work early at around 6:30 a.m., very dedicated and ready to fight the battles of the day. He graduated with an Aerospace Engineering degree. After completing his AET, he proceeded to complete his leadership and management qualification course. He worked on aircraft staggers for short period before being assigned as the ASO in my section.

b. Double-Roles. During about halfway of my training, the deputy Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Officer (AMEO) resigned. Also, the old AMEO left early due to Parental Leave while the new AMEO got delayed for months due to relocation problems. There was at least four months that he was the only maintenance officer at the ASO section. He held two positions, and took on the roles of deputy AMEO and ASO.

c. Team values and traits. There were five main values of the ASO team: professionalism, excellence, leadership support, family-orientedness, and maintenance of high morale. In terms of experience, the two shifts had balanced number of technicians. The team conducted its business with a high degree of professionalism. Both crews worked to display excellence in their field of expertise, maintaining a high morale through a family-oriented spirit with the support of all levels of leadership. The company had three core organizational values: professionalism, dedication and excellence.

d. Consistency Problem. The leader can manage and lead his team to achieve maintenance efficiency at a certain level. Both the leader and the team had positive attitude and keen motivation. The leader made use of the experienced personnel and SMEs in identifying root causes of problems and resulted in workable solutions. The leader was approachable and resolved personnel issues at the lowest level. At the early stages of the leader’s time in the company, when he was just newly hired, the biggest challenge for him was – how to consistently meet and exceed the expectations of the Ops section.

The Ops section made the schedule of the daily flying operations, and it was prone to quick changes. Consequently, these changes caused priorities in the ASO section to change as well, and resulted in huge challenges to the ASO leader, the Crew Chief and the entire ASO section in how to achieve consistency in delivering serviceable aircraft to the Ops section for use in their tasking schedules.

Another contributing factor that affected the consistency of meeting and exceeding Ops expectations was the growing number of aircraft that the company was acquiring, that needed maintenance. When I arrived for my AET, there were only four helicopters in the section. After six months, the company acquired an additional helicopter. This additional aircraft posed challenges in workforce management, especially when highly experienced technicians were scheduled for their work transfer on-board a ship. When the technicians were transferred to work onboard a ship, it resulted in lesser manpower and lesser expertise left available at the maintenance section of the company.

IV. APPLICATION OF THE MODEL.

a. Description. The OUM provides a basis for looking through the whole organization to those structures and processes that need to be monitored before change can be managed effectively (Jones, 1998, p. 26).

There are five elements of the OUM: values, goals, structure, climate and environment. Values are the underlying philosophy that defines the reason for the existence of the organization, the purpose for which it is established (Jones, 1998, p. 26). Goals are values that are expressed in the organization’s operational statements (Jones, 1998, p. 28). The management structure is the means by which organizational goals will be implemented or made operational (Jones, 1998, p. 30). The climate of the organization is the psychological atmosphere that results from and surrounds the operation of the structure, which is both a result of and a determinant of the behavior of individuals and groups within the structure (Jones, 1998, p. 33). The environment is the physical and social surroundings with which the organization must interact in order to accomplish its goals (Jones, 1998, p. 35).

b. Solution to the Consistency Problem.

1. Values. To achieve cooperation and coordination, the values of the leaders and team members must align with the values of the organization (Jones, 1998, p. 26). This means that the ASO leader and his entire team must have values that are in agreement with the values of the company so that a common driving force can be leveraged to good use.

There were two values common to the organization and the team: professionalism and excellence. The missing piece was dedication. In order to get his team to be dedicated, the leader started by setting an example of dedication. He showed his dedication to all the team members as well as everyone in the organization. On a daily basis, he came to work at least an hour early and stayed behind more than an hour. He came early to get himself prepared for the day’s task and stayed behind to ensure that the change of shift between the night and day crew went smooth, and that all the important handover information and tasks were passed on clearly to the relieving crew.

Another way that the leader showed dedication was when a member of his team encountered a personal problem, the leader exhausted all resources available at his disposal in order to help and support the member. There was a member of his team, who at one point was not performing at his best because he was having difficulties dealing with childcare. The leader spoke to the member and found out the root cause of the childcare problem and immediately worked out a solution. The first solution that was considered was childcare using specialized family-oriented network. The second solution proposed was adjusting the member’s work hours from dayshift to afternoon shift so that the member can take care of his child during the day when his spouse was working. Once his spouse came home from work, the member can then start with his afternoon shift. The second solution was the one chosen by the member and approved by the leader.

The leader measured the success of the solution by following up with the member. When a solution did not work out, other solutions were immediately discussed, implemented and followed-up. The leader continued his dedicated support until a successful solution was achieved.

When the rest of the team saw the example of dedication shown by the leader to one of their teammates, the whole team felt and realized the dedicated support of their welfare and wellbeing. Because of the leader’s example of dedication, the member was motivated and showed his whole dedication to the team. Other members of the team also showed their dedication. The leader has won the heart of his team as well as their dedication to the whole organization.

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2. Goals. The goals of the team must be clear and explicit to everyone in the organization and all members need to be part of the goal-setting process in order to ensure that everyone is committed to the outcomes of those goals (Jones, 1998, p. 28).

The leader communicated the organizational goals to all members of the team. To overcome the consistency problem of meeting and exceeding the expectations of the Ops section, the leader had set a specific goal that was achievable and measurable. In my recollection, the leader, in consultation with all section heads had set a goal “to provide a serviceable aircraft to the Ops section one day before the scheduled flight in the Flying Program schedule”. The involvement of the section heads ensured that all inputs from all members of the team were represented and allowed the goal to be communicated clearly to everyone. To ensure that the goal was achievable, the leader and the section heads identified the adequacy of resources needed to achieve the goal. If there was a perceived lack of personnel, tool, equipment or any other resource, this was taken into account in estimating the number of hours/days required to provide a serviceable aircraft. For instance, if there was a lack of personnel in the ASO section, the leader coordinated the provision of additional personnel from other areas of the organization such as the second line shops. If there was a special tool required to complete the repair, the leader ensured quick approval of purchase orders to prevent further delays in repair. Once the estimated time to provide a serviceable aircraft was determined, this timeframe was communicated to the Ops section and allowed them to correspondingly adjust the Flying Program schedule.

To measure the progress of the goal, the leader monitored and took note of important milestones and recorded the time spent. If a perceived delay of three hours was expected for example, this was clearly communicated to the Ops section and all members of the team so that they were able to adjust accordingly to account for those three hours. This transparency ensured that everyone was on the same page on their commitment of achieving their common goal that was originally set.

3. Climate. Trust results from achieving success in shoulder-to-shoulder work toward common goals (Jones, 1998, p. 33). When the team achieved their goal that was originally set, trust in the capability of the team naturally developed. I was a witness of this trust that developed when I saw an engine change that was successfully performed, safely, and smoothly by a team of five Aviation Systems technicians. The whole process went without any issues, and I vividly recalled how everyone was joking around and enjoyed working with each other with a high level of morale from start to finish. These same five Aviation Systems technicians developed trust among themselves. When another engine change was carried out in another aircraft, these same five Aviation Systems technicians completed the work with the same outstanding results as the first engine change because of the trust that they had in each other.

The leader monitored the emotional and psychological aspects of the team such as trust and morale. The leader nurtured the trust within the team. The leader protected this trust and did not let anything ruin the relationship among the team members. Equally important, the leader also maintained a high level of team morale. The leader monitored the behaviors exhibited by the team and when he noticed any signs of stress, burnout or low morale, the leader quickly implemented morale-building and team-building activities. For instance, the leader took advantage of the core values that kept the team together, such as family-orientedness. The leader then organized family-oriented activities such as family barbeque with the team bringing their own spouse and children. Other morale-building activities that the leader supported were sports day and family fun day, with the members of the family present in which there were games for children, with prices, and an enjoyable hot meal. When the stress and burnout were relieved, the team’s morale began to increase. With the increase in the team’s morale and a healthy work-life balance achieved, this resulted in a corresponding increase in the productivity and output of the team.

4. Management structure. Out of the six major aspects of the structure of the organization, the reward system is probably the most powerful determinant of individual and group behavior (Jones, 1998, p. 32). When goals were attained by the team, a system of rewards played an important role in maintaining the motivation of the team to meet and exceed expectations in a consistent fashion. To ensure that enthusiasm was maintained and that everyone in the team was committed to goal attainment, the leader had proactively sought for nominations to the reward system: commendation letters, recognition coins, “Employee of the Month” awards, and appreciation letters. The manner of presentation of these rewards was critical. The whole team was awarded with the “Team of the Month” award, saying “Team of the Month is awarded to ASO Team”. The best performer and the hardest worker of the team was awarded with a distinction and received an extra award which was the letter of commendation. Additionally, great write-ups in personnel evaluation reports (PER) were written. A great PER write-up went a long way. The leader ensured that outstanding performance and outcomes were captured in the PER because these were critical determinant to promotion, and with promotion, came pay increase. Great PERs were also used as one of the important determining factors for the employees who received their preferred employment transfers, and much coveted positions.

5. Environment. Environmental disturbances can create challenges in almost all facets of the organization’s operations (Jones, 1998, p. 36). One of the mandates that the organization needs to fulfill was to provide a helicopter to support maritime operations. When members of the team worked onboard a ship, it caused a decrease in manpower available to maintain the air assets within the organization. In order to fulfill the objective to supply serviceable aircraft to maritime operations, the team worked extra hours on weekdays as well as on weekends. This caused the team to be physically and mentally stressed which eventually resulted in team burnout. This in turn led to exhaustion and reduction in productivity.

The leader monitored the organization’s response to these changes in the environment, acted accordingly and successfully managed the relations with other environmental components. The key to his success was his quick respond to the shortage of manpower in the company. The leader utilized personnel from the second line shops. Personnel from a sister company were also requested to help out. Additionally, the leader requested for specialty non-destructive testing (NDT) technicians from the sister company. The additional manpower helped relieve the stress of the team and eventually increased their productivity.

c. Application of action steps. The action step used for the value element was to align the team’s values to the organizational values. This was correctly applied because it led to the cooperation and coordination of efforts.

The action step used for the goals element was to make everyone committed to achieving common goals. This was correctly applied because everyone was involved in the goal-setting process and the goals were clearly communicated to everyone.

The action step used for the climate element was to monitor the attitudes and emotional aspects of the team. This was correctly applied because when the leader realized that trust and morale developed, he nurtured the trust and maintained the morale.

The action step used for the structure element was the reward system. This was correctly applied because the rewards received by the team has kept their enthusiasm and helped maintained their motivation towards their commitment to their goals.

The action step used for the environment element was to monitor the organization’s speed of response to changes in the environment. This was correctly applied because the leader successfully managed the relations with other environmental components when he coordinated the requisition of additional manpower from second line shops and other sections in supplying needed personnel to deal with manpower shortage in the company.

V. SUMMARY.

a. Key aspects of the leadership experience. The shortage of manpower in the company and the addition of another aircraft has caused environmental disturbances and climate issues within the organization’s operations. The leader has resolved these disturbances and issues by acting quickly and making the necessary requisition of additional work force to prevent his team from being exhausted and worn out. To ensure that all efforts were coordinated, the leader worked on aligning his team’s values to the values of the organization. After alignment of values, the leader made everyone committed to achieving common goals by involving all members to be part of the goal-setting process and by making these goals clear to everyone. The leader monitored the climate when trust was developed from achieving these common goals. To nurture trust, the leader protected the relationship of the team members. To maintain enthusiasm and ensure that everyone was committed to goal attainment, the leader proactively utilized the reward system of the management structure. When stress and burnout were observed, the leader used team-building and morale-building activities to relieve their stress and revitalize the team.

b. Conclusions from the application of the OUM. The leader had successfully used the five elements of the OUM to solve the problem on consistency of delivering a serviceable aircraft on time to the Ops section for use in their missions. The leader identified the applicable action step in each of the elements and utilized these action steps to formulate and implement solutions that resulted in the successful achievement of their goals.

Every team in an organization is different. The leader needs to know the team in a personal level and identify the elements of the OUM that apply to the team. Once relevant elements have been identified, the leader needs to implement the action steps applicable to these elements. After implementation, the leader must monitor and measure the success of the action steps. When a positive attribute such as trust is developed, the leader must protect and nurture it. On the other hand, when a negative attribute such as stress is observed, team-building and morale-building activities must be implemented to restore the team’s operational effectiveness.

c. Recommendations and Lessons Learned. Listed below are the recommendations and lessons learned from the leadership analysis using the OUM:

1. Getting to know the team was a crucial first step;

2. Leadership started from the examples shown by the leader;

3. The leader must ensure that the values of his team align with the values of the organization;

4. Alignment of values led to cooperation and coordination of efforts;

5. Commitment was achieved when goals were set by the leader and everyone in the team and clearly communicated;

6. Trust naturally developed when the team achieved the goal set;

7. Monitoring the climate enabled the leader to respond accordingly to preserve positive attributes;

8. The leader nurtured the trust by protecting the relationships among the team members;

9. Reward system of the management structure was utilized by the leader to maintain enthusiasm and commitment to goals;

10. When the team’s morale was low, morale-building activities were implemented to relieve the stress and revitalize the team;

11. When the team’s morale was increased, productivity and output was also increased; and

12. The leader’s quick respond to shortage in manpower has enabled him to successfully restore the productivity of the team.

VI. HOW TO IMPROVE MY LEADERSHIP.

Action plan to improve my leadership. To correctly apply any action steps related to the elements of the OUM, my first step is to identify and know my team. As the leader, I need to interact and get to know my team on a personal level. I will determine each team member’s individual strengths and weakness, including their personal values. Next, I will align my team’s values to the organization’s values. This value alignment must start with myself – I must first show the example to my team. After value alignment is achieved, I will work towards getting the commitment of my team to achieve a set goal. Again, this commitment to the team’s goals must first start with myself, as the leader. To obtain my team’s commitment, I will include everyone in the team in goal-setting and clearly communicate the set goal. I will monitor the emotional and psychological aspects of my team. When positive attributes such as trust is developed, I will nurture and protect them. I will not allow anything that can potentially damage the relationships within the team. I will maintain my team’s motivation by being proactive in using the reward system to appreciate my team’s contribution and to ensure that they will feel valued within the management structure. When I notice a decrease in performance resulting from stress and burnout, I will implement team-building and morale-building activities such as sports day and family fun day, to recharge and re-energize my team to get them back to their peak levels of performance.

References:

Jones, J.E. (1998). The Pfeiffer Library Volume 16 (2nd edition). Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

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