What can we learn in alliances from ad hoc airline teams?

Last week I had the opportunity to spend 4 gorgeous days at beautiful Bonaire. It was exciting in many ways to undertake this trip. It was my first and certainly not last in many ways. First time to Bonaire, which I can highly recommend, and the first time that I was traveling as a companion to my wife, while on duty for her work at an airline. This travel that you are entitled to as spouse to an airline employee is different from the regular travel I was used to. The ticket purchased will only be valid and one will only travel if a place is available on board of the plane. As such I only knew last-minute whether I would make it to the destination or not. Luckily for me there was a seat available both ways.

Being in a different position as a traveler I was also more in an observing mode than I normally am during travel. Observing the crew during the flight I saw a team that is collaborating seamlessly. A team with their own culture, making jokes amongst each others while maintaining a strong customer focus. Two days after we arrived at Bonaire another crew arrived in the hotel. Even though I did not experience this team at their work it was obvious this was also a team with a close collaboration and their own team culture.

It is quite interesting to make these observations while realizing that for the flights the airline establishes a 10 person cabin crew out of ~9000 employees. Some of them may have worked together before, some of them are totally new to each other. However the moment I see these 10 people come on board they are a team.

I haven’t found the magic recipe behind this sudden transformation from 10 separate people into 1 team yet. There are of course common elements like company culture and the consistent training the crew follows that will be helpful in the transformation. On the other hand it are 10 individuals that are brought together to perform a task for a flight.

What can we learn as alliance professionals from these ad hoc teams that have one common goal during their short alliance that has the duration of a flight? How can we prepare our strategic alliances in a proper way to be and act as a team direct from day one, with one common goal during the existence of the alliance?

Look forward to your contributions, share them in the comments below, or send them in a private message to me.

2 Responses to “What can we learn in alliances from ad hoc airline teams?”

  1. Another response in the email highlights the element of common goals:

    Having worked in the airline industry myself many years ago with Lufthansa, I know all too well what it means to travel as a standby passenger.  I enjoyed reading your mail below with your observation and perspective on team transformation with a common goal.  Looking at my experience in integrations and setting up JV’s, I think it’s the common goal that makes the team.  If that is well prepared, clear, and aligned with all, the team forms naturally.  Without a clear common goal, well then you get ambiguity, misalignment, and hidden agendas….

  2. One response to this post came in through email, which I would like to share here:

    Would an airliner be different from IBM?  Be different from Philips?  Probably not ! 

    Individuals are selected and trained.  Pilots, stewardesses, engineers, maintenance people, check in personnel at the gate, …

    Processes are overprocedurised.  Especially also on an aircraft. 

    Timing is key 

    Quality is top 

    The same has been overly repeated many times 

    The tools are the same.  Same aircraft.  Same chairs in aircraft.  Same colours, Same and always more of the same. 

    Everything is measured 

    All is designed and engineered to perfection 

    But what does make the difference?  Your wife, or in more general terms the crew on the aircraft.  IBM is a people company. The airliner is a people company.  The people make the difference. 

    Your crew on your flight was top.  The crew on the flight coming in 2 days later, was different, but top again.  The crew = a group of people in a set of procedures, once they get into their uniform.  Them together at the hotel = teambuilding.  Them together in uniform = top class customer service dedication 

    When we draw a parallel on this towards alliances I would say that the parallel we can see is that puts the emphasize on good partner selection, a proper alliance launch and a solid alliance management.