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Delegation never works

This case study and analysis is written by Rod Hayward, an Associate Professor in the BBA AV (Bachelor of Business Administration in Aviation) programme at the University of the Fraser Valley. Rod has worked as a commercial pilot, AME M1 &2, QA manager, director of maintenance, entrepreneur and manager in the Canadian aviation industry and is currently the president of PAMEA. (Pacific Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Association). Feel free to reach out to Rod at
This is the second of a series of articles which focus on managerial challenges in the aviation and aerospace industries. The following brief scenario / case study which is meant to illustrate the problems associated with succession planning, career development and a changing workforce. Part 1 will outline the problem Part 2 will discuss the issues and possible solutions.
Part 1 – The scenario

Bob was beside himself, Marnie, the sales manager for the organization had just reminded Bob that a potential client’s auditing team would be on site next week. This was part of a standard pre-qualification audit to determine if the company would be approved as a qualified vendor for an upcoming multimillion dollar RFP (Request for Proposal). The company was trying to secure the contract to supply the air transportation needs for an upcoming multibillion dollar resource project.

As the maintenance manager for the air carrier, Bob had delegated Suzanne, one of the crew chiefs to ensure that the facility would be ready for the inspection. But the reality was that the external audit could not be scheduled for a more inconvenient time. A heavy check was in progress on one aircraft and the company had recently started operating another aircraft type which was causing some unexpected challenges – diverting Suzanne’s attention during her shifts. Add to this, the fact that it was summer and a number of key personnel had taken vacation.

Bob was done – he wanted to throw his hands up in despair – he was busy enough managing the maintenance department, fulfilling his primary responsibility of keeping the aircraft in the air – Why was he now having to pander to the requests from the sales manager? As he looked around the facility he realized that Suzanne had not managed to make any progress on getting the hangar ready for the external audit. Well it looked like the family would have to take a back seat again – As usual, I will have to organize the job myself, and Bob muttered “delegation never works!” - As he stormed back to his office.

What would you do if you were in Bob’s shoes or in a senior management role?

When reviewing a scenario we ask a few questions like: who are the players? What are the primary / secondary issues here? What could happen? And what are the possible solutions to the problem? Take some time to write down some of the challenges and ideas for correcting the challenges.
Part 2 – Problem identification

When reviewing a scenario we ask a few questions like: who are the players? What are the primary / secondary issues here – root causes? What could happen? And what are the possible solutions to the problem? (Not unlike doing a corrective action plan)

Players: Bob – Maintenance Manager -primary subject. Suzanne – Crew chief, Marnie – Sales manager, The Company itself, the potential customer, and the management and employees of the company would be seen as the primary players.

What could possibly happen? What is at stake for the company and for the players?

At the macro level, all companies’ need to generate revenue in order to at least stand a chance of making a profit. An inability to secure work through a competitive bidding process puts everyone’s job at stake. At the personal level Bob’s reputation and reputation of the maintenance department is at stake from both internal and external customers. In a relatively tightly knit but highly competitive industry such as aviation, the reputation of the company and its employees is critical to its long term success. What about Bob’s Personal wellbeing – if he continues to try to personally solve every challenge?

On the surface the issues /challenge here appears to be based around a few themes:

1. Workload / Resource Management (Project Management) and,
2. Leadership / Management in regards to Bob’s perceived need to step forward and take control
3. Organizational silos / perhaps this site visit is not seen as a priority by Bob
4. A lack of an integrated quality culture?

The reality is that you probably have seen a situation like this occur or you have played one of the roles in this classic workplace challenge. We are often asked to do more with less, within a time constraint set by others. Companies exist in order to make a profit and have finite resources. (Trying not to sound too much like the master of the obvious here.) WE know this, then why are these workplace challenges common – why does it seem like organizations go from one crisis to another?

Part 3 - Building a Solution

We have reviewed the scenario, identified the players, what is at stake, and proposed a couple possible causes. Now what should Bob / or the leadership group do at this point / and in the long term to correct the current challenge?

Short term action

In this particular scenario the timeline is relatively short – the external auditors will be here in the next week – at this point we have no choice but an immediate call to action. A sense of urgency needs to be communicated to the front line. In a situation like this where the stakes are this high, be truthful. Bob needs to let the team know what is at stake here. If everyone understands that this inspection could lead to an important contract they will probably come together and get the work done. Don’t just tell people to do something – engage them – take the time to explain why this is important.

Longer term corrective action

Is it possible to build an organization that is able to withstand commercial pressures while thriving in an environment of constant change? There is a direct link between a resilient culture and a culture which supports a quality mandate. The connection is an engaged workforce. But what does it mean to have an engaged workforce? For the purpose of this case engagement means a workforce which shows up physically, mentally, and emotionally. Meaning they actually are showing up for more than just a pay cheque.

Although not foolproof, the following suggestion may assist your organization and your people to be more resilient and engaged when the inevitable happens and projects collide.

• Build organizations which support teams - Teams are much more resilient than individuals. How you organize and reward your work groups can contribute to the team effectiveness. Ask yourself are you rewarding individual effort or team effort. (The classic example being the commission sales person who is focused on one objective alone)
• Build a culture which supports innovative thinking – listen to front line staff, reward ideas, celebrate new ideas, remember that innovation can sometimes involve taking a chance – not all ideas succeed – don’t dwell on failure
• Every member of your organization needs to know what their role is in the organization and how their input can affect others – this helps break down barriers and silos within organizations – Silo’s detract from teamwork.
• Encourage initiative within your work groups but beware of the lone ranger
• Model the behavior you want to see – managers need to work collaboratively
• Set clear expectations - Then hold individuals and groups accountable to agreed expectations
• Remember motivated people and teams will achieve more – and more importantly - learn how intrinsic motivators work.
• Set goals that are measurable and have an agreed completion time – then hold the group or the individual accountable ( a goal that is not measurable is not a goal it is an aspiration)
• Celebrate the group successes
• Trust your people
• Say thanks – a lot

These are all great points but without buy in from the leadership team any initiatives will be doomed – The first step would probably be determining if Bob is willing to change his approach to management. Senior management will have to make a decision based on what they know about Bob. Perhaps the first step would be set up a mentoring program for Bob. Or alternately removing Bob.


In a rapidly changing world where market conditions and competition is constantly shifting, organizations need to be able to adapt. Managers need to sharpen their leadership skills. The traditional management role was seen as maintaining the “Status Quo” – this approach does not support a resilient organization that can rapidly adapt to changing market conditions nor support a quality focused culture.
Building the organizational culture that you desire or changing an existing organizational culture does not just happen. Management needs to be very deliberate and disciplined when developing the organization which meets the organizations objectives.

Remember: “Nature abhors a Vacuum” an organizational culture will form in any organization. If management is not deliberate, the organizations cultural vacuum will be filled with something – unfortunately it may not be the culture that supports your organizational objectives.