Accelerating CDM implementation

This article originally appeared in the ATC Network Special Bulletin'CDM' - December 2011. To read the complete publication go to:
Martin Hawley, Peter Saxton, Winsland Consulting.
There are high expectations that Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) will make a substantial impact on the future modernisation of air traffic management. The term collaborative features heavily in SESAR, whether it concerns airport, airspace or network decision making. The forerunner in CDM concepts is Airport CDM, which now has emerging evidence of benefits from leading airports. This is expected, as there is an overwhelming logic that sharing accurate information and predictions on airport turn-around milestones will lead to better planning, and thereby improved operations.

But as expected as the benefits may be, take-up of CDM has been frustratingly slow. Adding to the frustration is the underlying knowledge that this sort of collaboration is implicit in future ATM modernisation. I.e. if it is so difficult to implement collaboration at a single airport, what hope do we have for the network of the future? Those currently leading A-CDM projects must be highly motivated and have great stamina. To extend the analogy, they started out on a sprint but are now running a marathon. Whilst we applaud their efforts, we need to understand what is going on the future ATM concept may depend on it.

There appear to be two underlying issues that hold back A-CDM progress. Firstly, whilst clear cost-benefit cases can be shown, the relationship between investment and benefit is indirect and diffuse. Secondly, our European culture is generally one of individualism rather than collectivism. This means that we are more inclined towards competition and gaming in stakeholder relationships than collaborating. This is also perhaps a reason for developing bespoke IT solutions - the not invented here syndrome. These two issues combine to hinder the implementation of CDM, manifesting themselves in different ways, for example:

  • Stakeholders clearly see that CDM will benefit the airport, but will it benefit their organisation individually? For example, a single occasion of improved tactical stand planning may benefit an airlines competitor. But if everyone properly buys in to the concept, CDM behaviour will flow benefits to all actors. In the same vein, network level benefits are diffused via better use of network capacity, benefiting individual operators in small but important ways over time. With our individualist hats on, the cost benefit case for CDM may work best by enabling the airport operator / air traffic service provider to invest in information systems (the cost is shared fairly among operators). But individual operators may be reluctant to engage their resources where the benefits are not proximate or directly traceable.

  • Stakeholders have commented on the slow execution of actions by different airport actors, and that enthusiasm at steering group level is not matched by delivery at the process or system level. This creates a sense of low reliability leading to a culture of low expectation. It may be that some stakeholders are aiming for limited compliance, a tick in the box or are simply overwhelmed with current business and operational matters. A clear indication of progress would be the adoption of new service level agreements that facilitate process collaboration across horizontal boundaries.

  • CDM implementations have been tool-driven rather than process driven. Information sharing tools are clearly important, but the success of the concept will ultimately be driven by adherence to the basics established by Eurocontrol, particularly the target off-block time (TOBT). We believe this is more than a new turn-around milestone, it is a statement of intent by those at the front-line. The risk is that, with limited buy in to TOBT, work-arounds are used, such as populating the TOBT with system estimates. Whilst this may still make some improvement, the real benefits will stem from a stable planning horizon given by a reliable prediction of TOBT.

  • Our conclusion is that wide scale process improvements need wide buy-in at the front line, and that a new leadership paradigm is needed. Our evidence comes from leading improvements to Minimum Turn Round times (MTRs) and then analysing why the approach taken was successful. Creating buy-in is perhaps the primary role of the CDM implementation manager. It means plenty of consultation, staff involvement and allowing people to control their own destinies as far as possible, to reduce fear and reaction. Because people seek security, purpose and pride in work, knowing that they have contributed to a critical part of their companys business is a strong motivator.

    Translating these into leadership requirements, to be successful in CDM, organisations will need to develop the following characteristics:

  • Two or more independent organisations are acting together because they need to achieve an overwhelmingly important objective that cannot be attained by any single organisation acting alone.

  • Managers learn to act collegiately in dyads or networks. They construct relationships based on an agreed mutual interest, and aim for mutual confidence through reliability.

  • Just as CDM aims to integrate processes horizontally across organisations, horizontal process integration must put the quality of output first and not be compromised by organisational boundaries.

  • These characteristics are elements of what is now commonly known as Leading without authority or Collaborative Leadership. This is markedly different to conventional leadership techniques, which may not only be ineffective, but may actually make matters worse. Leading without authority is a skill that can be learned like any other leadership model; but it does have to be learned. It is the leadership framework within which CDM needs to be embedded, requiring fundamental shifts in the new essentials of motivating teams, and the need for non-authoritative, boundary-spanning persuasive skills in critical leaders. Whilst we are not surprised to see these leadership characteristics in CDM project managers, they cannot remain the only ones with such skills for real penetration of collaboration within the industry.

    Winsland provides training and consultancy services to organisations seeking to turn collaboration from vision to reality.
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