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Volume 2, Issue 1, 2007

In this tumultuous environment a critical need emerged to proactively investigate the departments strengths, weaknesses, and areas where transformation was needed to be prepared for the future. To address this need, a partnership between the SOC and the Organizational Development (OD) team within JetBlue University (the airlines centralized learning group) was forged. The goal of this partnership was to create a stronger foundation within the SOC by building a healthier organizational culture that will support JetBlues crewmembers and customers and enable a consistent delivery of the JetBlue Experience. Lets Get Engaged Managing the daily operational performance of a major airline is a full-time job. So how would leaders and crewmembers within the department find the time to engage themselves in this improvement process? The on-time departure of Flight 15 alone (one of 500 daily flights) requires the full attention of the SOC team including: dispatchers who must monitor weather and generate the flight plan for the cockpit crew crew schedulers who activate a reserve flight attendant and a pilot to ensure the aircraft is adequately staffed maintenance controllers who communicate to the maintenance department at JFK when a part needs to be changed prior to departure SOC managers who coordinate an aircraft swap for the flight when the scheduled plane is delayed inbound to JFK These key players represent the teamwork required by the diverse departments who together comprise the SOC team. Their decisions directly impact customer and crewmember satisfaction as well as bottom-line performance.

JetBlue Airways & Organizational Development: Partners for Change

Pulling Off the JetBlue Experience As JetBlue Airways Flight 15 taxis to the runway at JFK International Airport bound for Fort Lauderdale, customers enjoy the JetBlue Experience in their comfortable leather seats while flipping through 36 channels of live television. While most of the customers on Flight 15 can tell you they appreciate the on-time departure and seamless execution of the experience, they may not realize the level of complexity behind the scenes to safely and efficiently operate a major airline. The System Operations Center (SOC) is the heart of the airline the epicenter where effective decision making, communication, teamwork, and leadership are critical to ensure that crewmembers (JetBlue vernacular for employees) are able to meet and exceed customer needs. This department has a direct impact on ensuring that JetBlues vision of bringing humanity back to air travel is achieved. Today, the SOC is comprised of five teams, including Maintenance Control, System Control, Crew Services, Dispatch, and BlueWatch (i.e. security). By fostering an environment that puts crewmembers first, JetBlue Airways has broken new territory in an industry known for bad customer service and disgruntled employees. The low-cost airline entered the market in 2000 and has survived competition from major airlines; its main competitors being American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. As JetBlue grew and changed, a culture shift occurred. Processes that once were sufficient became outdated. The 150 crewmembers of the SOC were at the forefront of these organizational changes, which included turnover in leadership, expansion into international markets, increased number of departures, and the introduction of a new fleet type. Compounding the stress of these internal changes were the external pressures of competing carriers emerging from bankruptcy, increased fuel prices, as well as an increasing number of low-fare carriers entering the marketplace.

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These same people, while recognizing their success in getting Flight 15 off the ground today, realize that tomorrows operating environment will look very different. Crewmembers in the SOC, as well as the senior leadership team, ponder whether or not their efforts will scale to a larger more complex operation. The Senior Vice President of Operations sought an outside perspective from the OD team to help him look under the hood to identify what was working well and what could be changed. The organizational culture at JetBlue embraces change, so the decision to help the SOC continuously improve was supported by all within the department from directors to frontline crewmembers. Once the sponsor for the project was approved, the OD team met with key stakeholders, mainly leaders from the System Operations Center, to begin developing a comprehensive contract that outlined the scope of work and to establish clear roles and expectations. After the sponsor and the OD team established an agreed upon contract, the planning of this large scale intervention commenced. Engaging both internal and external SOC stakeholders during the planning process strengthened the level of commitment to the initiative.

Project Overview Phase

Project Request & Contracting Request from SVP received Key stakeholders identified by SVP & COO Planning Data Collection & Review Focus groups & interviews conducted Evaluation plan created Denison Organizational Culture Survey conducted Action Planning & Implementation Working team alignment conducted Weekly OD meetings with rotating director as leader Crewmember involvement plan created Buy-in & Process Development Follow-up & Assessment

Communication plan created and launched Data collection plan including tools for collection created

Change Monitor & feedback sessions Interviews Best practices & lessons learned Action planning


Contract including key deliverables drafted & approved Sponsorship & Scope Defined


Participation Secured

Data & Themes Relationships Built

Momentum & Accountability Maintained

Tell Us What Youre Thinking One of the decisions made in the planning phase of the project was to utilize a familiar tool to gain feedback from SOC crewmembers. JetBlue is a progressive company and invests in its crewmembers by focusing on the development of leaders with the expectation that they will in turn treat their crewmembers right and lead the company to prosperity. JetBlue already utilized the Denison Leadership Development Survey in their leadership development program, The Principles of Leadership (POL). Because the model that comprises the Denison Leadership Development Survey so closely represents the POL series at JetBlue, the tool was well received throughout the organization. It therefore made sense to use the Denison Organizational Culture Survey as the diagnostic tool for the SOC change initiative. Visually, the model was appealing and easy to interpret; more importantly, it linked to bottom-line business performance, including market share, sales growth, and employee and customer satisfaction. Since the decisions made within the SOC directly impact customer satisfaction, understanding the strength of the departments culture would be valuable given the link between organizational culture and customer satisfaction proven by Denison. In addition to the quantitative data provided by the Denison Organizational Culture Survey, capturing qualitative data was also critical. Accordingly, 40 interviews and focus groups from all departments and all levels within the SOC were conducted to gain insight into the perceived strengths and
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weaknesses of the department. As an internal representative in the organization, the OD consultant was able to leverage existing relationships with SOC crewmembers, creating a comfortable environment for crewmembers to speak openly and honestly during interviews and focus groups. After synthesizing the data, the OD consultant met with SOC leadership to interpret the data during a one-day working session. During the session, the details of the Denison model were explored and case studies were reviewed to ensure that the participants understood the model so they would be able to interpret their own results. Additionally, the leadership team spent time anticipating and discussing what their results may look like before seeing them. Once some initial hypotheses were presented, the results were reviewed and the group was able to focus their attention on two things that were working well (high scores on the survey) and two things that were not working well (low scores on the survey). The group then reviewed specific information about the gap in scores between directors and managers. This gap illustrated important perception differences between these leadership levels, about the SOC department as a whole, as well as their respective team results. In summarizing the information captured from the Denison Organizational Culture Survey, the focus groups, and the interviews, five key themes were identified and translated into action. These key themes correlated directly with specific indices on the Denison Model, reaffirming the models value to strategy development and culture change: 1. Goals and Objectives - Communicate meaningful and understandable departmental and team goals that are aligned with the company goals. 2. Crewmember Development - Provide technical and soft skills training to support crewmembers by establishing a partnership with JetBlue University. 3. Customer Focus - Gain insight and respond to internal customers needs by defining consistent processes and increasing internal communication. 4. Willingness to Change - Identify and adopt new ways to work to achieve goals and manage growth with the tools and resources available by utilizing internal resources, developing strategic plans, and creating forums to generate innovative ideas. 5. Guidelines - Develop guidelines that can be followed

and interpreted (These guidelines are to be developed once departmental and team goals are finalized.) The OD consultant stressed to the leadership team that focusing on a few relevant areas was much more effective than creating a laundry list of opportunities. The correlation of these themes with the Denison Model would also provide a platform to monitor the departments progress and to build accountability into the process. Navigating the Roadmap Collecting and analyzing the data was only the first step in the change process. The OD consultant met regularly with each member of the SOC leadership team individually to educate them about the role of leadership during the change process, reasons why people resist change, and how to develop strategies to overcome that resistance. The five themes were communicated to the entire organization through an appreciative email from the Senior Vice President. In addition, the OD consultant facilitated intensive weekly meetings for the first month to develop and execute an extensive action plan. However, leadership knew that a single email and a weekly meeting behind closed doors would not be enough to gain the crewmember buy-in necessary to transfer those themes into action. In order to capture the hearts and minds of the crewmembers in the SOC and to bring credibility to the effort, leadership needed to walk the talk to truly become a higher performing culture. Leadership ensured that their behaviors were in line with the verbal and written communications that were dispersed. Directors and managers attended weekly action planning meetings, consistently participated in goal setting sessions, and took time to meet with frontline crewmembers about the vision and the action plan. An action planning roadmap, including goals, deadlines and responsible owners, was created and displayed in the middle of the SOC to serve as a visual reminder of the changes that were underway. In addition to visible leadership support and extensive communication, creating a coalition of crewmembers that would serve as ambassadors was critical to the successful implementation of the five themes. Crewmembers within the SOC were nominated by their peers to serve on a roundtable. The purpose of the roundtable was to get frontline crewmembers real
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- involved in the change process. In essence, the group was designed to help implement changes to improve performance based on the feedback from the data collection. At least once a month, this group would meet to discuss issues, provide updates about changes that were underway, and remove obstacles that potentially blocked the new vision from being achieved. Finally, in order for crewmembers within the department to quickly see that the effort was producing quantifiable results, short-term wins were identified. Town hall meetings with senior leadership were instituted; professional development courses began; and an on-boarding program to help new crewmembers successfully join the team was rolled out. Leadership actively looked for opportunities to obtain marked improvements so the projects excitement and sense of urgency was maintained. To reiterate the departments ownership of the data and the execution of the resulting action plan, the OD consultant transferred the weekly meeting facilitation responsibilities to the SOC Directors within the first month. The Directors took turns facilitating the meetings on a rotating basis, symbolizing their buy-in and commitment to the initiative. Each week was considered to be a working session and all efforts were aligned with the key themes. Out of those weekly sessions, detailed action plans were created and executed in relation to the five themes: 1. Goals and Objectives: Create a compelling vision in order to create alignment across levels among different teams and to inspire the actions of the people in the department regarding their decision making and overall motivation. Conduct goal setting session in order to be able to communicate meaningful and understandable departmental and team goals that are aligned with the company goals so SOC crewmembers understand how their decisions supported the goals of the organization. Schedule town hall meetings where the president, CEO, and other leaders communicate the state of the organization and reinforce the vision of the company with crewmembers. Improve overall teamwork and cross-departmental relationships through quarterly offsite events such as a Manhattan scavenger hunt, BBQs and softball games. Send bi-monthly leadership newsletters to the

department in order to track stated goals, provide current updates, and reward and recognize crewmembers. 2. Crewmember Development: Conduct a complete needs assessment in order to identify the specific training needs and performance support requirements of SOC crewmembers. Develop training common to all of the teams in the SOC such as stress management and phone customer service skills training. Develop an orientation program to familiarize new crewmembers with the roles, communication processes, software, and key regulatory guidelines of each team within the SOC. 3. Customer Focus: Create process and communication maps that the SOC can follow during irregular operations in order to ensure consistent decision-making and a positive experience for crewmembers and customers. Leverage a company-wide shadow program to allow SOC crewmembers to gain insight into other teams inside and outside the department. 4. Willingness to Change: Create and maintain a coalition of change ambassadors to serve on a roundtable committee to develop plans, execute action plans, and identify challenges and potential obstacles. 5. Guidelines: Once goals have been set forth for the department, the development of guidelines will begin based on individual team needs. Maintaining the Momentum The tremendous amount of work that SOC leaders contributed to make these actions possible created a positive atmosphere in the working meetings and met the needs of the SOC crewmembers. With all the work that went into making the SOC a better organization, it would have been easy to declare victory. However, instead of simply celebrating the launch and completion of various initiatives that resulted from the hard work of the crewmembers, a follow-up Denison survey was administered to reassess the state of the department and to adapt the action plan accordingly. The five themes were resurveyed to formally assess the progress that
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was made since the commencement of the initiative to both justify the time spent and determine if any redirection was necessary. Accordingly, the Denison Organizational Culture Survey: Change Monitor was administered six months after the launch of the project. The Denison Organizational Culture Change Monitor Survey allows organizations to monitor their progress by measuring progress in up to four indexes. JetBlue chose to implement the Culture Change Monitor because it promotes accountability, ensures that the group follows through with its action plans and helps test the effectiveness of the change initiative. Similar to the original surveys debriefing sessions, a feedback meeting accompanied by an action planning session was conducted by the OD consultant with leadership to discuss the results. From this process came a refined action plan a tighter focus on the areas that needed to be leveraged. Also, resurveying allowed the leadership team to assess the perception gap between levels of leadership. The data from the survey indicated much greater alignment among directors, managers, and supervisors than prior to the intervention. Department members were apprehensive that the Culture Change Monitor survey scores may not be very high primarily because they were concerned that not enough time had passed for progress to be made. This was not the case. JetBlue System Operations JetBlue System Operations

JetBlue Systems Operations Center

Previous Results Previous Results

Previous Results
External Focus Focus External

Current Results

Current Results Current Results

External Focus Focus External

66 45 45






Stable Stable Flexible Flexible

Flexible Flexible

45 Beliefs and Beliefs and


Assumptions Assumptions

Beliefs and Beliefs and Assumptions Assumptions

Stable Stable




Internal Focus Focus Internal

Internal Focus Focus Internal

Using the Denison Organizational Culture Survey: Change Monitor, JetBlue compared their scores in four key N=N= 73 N = 91= 91 N areas of the Denison Model 73 their original scores in February 2006. These circumplexes show the improveto ment in scores eight months after the implementation of the change initiative.

JetBlue JetBlue

While the improved scores speak for themselves, feedback from interviews was also captured to assess the
25-Aug-06 progress made. Comments from crewmembers include: SB 2004 25-Aug-06 SB 2004 Communication has drastically improved around here causing us to work better as a team which has impacted the decisions made and the impact on the operation has been extremely beneficial. Now I really enjoy my job there is a much better team environment. Since the OD initiative, leaders in this department have sought out to make frontline crewmembers happy and have fulfilled their requests. We have become fun again. Numerous projects have been started and finished based on what crewmembers said was important in the Denison survey. The newsletters are very informative and the onboarding process is a huge improvement.

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Table 1: Changes over Time Theme Level Directors Managers Supervisors Crewmember Development Directors Managers Supervisors Customer Focus Directors Managers Supervisors Willingness to Change Directors Managers Supervisors Guidelines** Directors Managers Supervisors Previous Score 97 15 12 92 15 4 85 44 12 97 12 86 90 66 64 94 86 94 95 91 79 97 71 96 4.33 (mean) 3.30 (mean) 3.86 (mean) New Score -7 51 52 2 71 90 10 47 67 0 59 10 Percent Change

Communication has drastically improved throughout our department resulting in better decision making -- which has benefited our operation
-JetBlue Airways Crewmember.

Goals & Objectives

**Custom questions designed by JetBlue, results are reflected as mean scores. All others denote percentiles.

Passing the Baton The organizational development and culture change work in the SOC continues today. The SOC leadership team owns the process and the culture of the department, making the OD teams involvement very low and leaderships involvement very high. No longer is the kind of work that resulted from this project considered additional duties that leadership must perform. Because the OD consultant set the foundation from the beginning by delegating key tasks to stakeholders, having clear sponsorship and having accountable leaders, a mindset shift has occurred the idea that creating a high performing culture is part of every leaders job. This shift has created a new way of doing business as leaders realize that better performance and organizational success can be achieved through continuous improvement. The action plan that resulted from the Culture Change Monitor Survey is underway and bi-weekly working sessions are held to execute the plan. JetBlue plans to continue their work with the Denison Organizational Culture Survey, administering the survey annually to assess strengths and weaknesses. So as Flight 15 bound for Fort Lauderdale prepares for another departure, the System Operations Center team is better able to prepare crewmembers for success, leading to the consistent delivery of the JetBlue Experience. The captain receives accurate information from the dispatcher in a friendly, timely manner. The crew is upbeat as they know exactly where and when they are supposed to report for their flight. The possible disruption to the flight due to the late-arriving aircraft is avoided as the leaders of each team within the SOC communicate to each other in an efficient, effective manner. The customers, unaware of the activity behind the scenes now driven by improved processes, tools, and more satisfied crewmembers, sit back and enjoy JetBlues leather seats, DIRECTV programming and award-winning service.

Contact Information
Denison Consulting, LLC 121 West Washington, Suite 201 Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104 Phone: (734) 302-4002 Fax: (734) 302-4023 Email:

Copyright Information
Text by: Brian J. Glaser, JetBlue Airways Copyright 2005-2007 Denison Consulting, LLC All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction, in any manner, is prohibited. The Denison model, circumplex and survey are trademarks of Denison Consulting, LLC.

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