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With globalization, deregulation and the Internet, the customer now has choices, as well as reliable information about those choices. This also brings the ability to connect with other customers to discuss and compare which has resulted in companies thinking and working differently. One way this is happening, is with Agile management – which is now transforming the world of work.

Agile companies are focused on delivering value to customers. Although there are several schools of thought about what the actual definition of agile management and agile working is, one consensus is that by bringing people, processes, connectivity & technology, time and place together in a collaborative approach, the most effective way of carrying out a particular task will be found.

Agile working is not new, but according to www.agile.org.uk – it can be best be described as being a “new way of working” as it utilizes benefits gained from changing work practices, deploying new technologies and creating new working environments. In many organisations – as with most types of change – the cultural mindset is the main obstacle to agile working. This is because working in an agile way questions the command and control leadership of organisations, particular senior and middle management.

One of the first sectors to work in an agile way was the IT sector, which has truly embraced this method – and agile working functions work well in IT as it is extremely business focused. In a typical agile project, research, planning, design, development and testing typically happen all in parallel. This drives accountability and trust and enables continuous improvements to be made throughout the process. Employees can work at different times and from multiple locations as long as business requirements are met. It also enables specialists to be recruited rapidly for key tasks within a particular project to maximise flexibility and speed, as well as reduce costs. But agile working has now migrated from its prolific usage in the IT sector and is now being implemented in other industries including Aerospace, where the benefits remain consistent with IT usage: i.e. faster design, greater customer focus, adaptability and empowered teams being more responsive to market demand.

According to www.tech.gsa.gov as a result of changing market dynamics, today, the HR function now often typically manages complex projects and serves multiple stakeholders. This leads to competing priorities that require consistent, effective strategies in their approach to communication, programs, administration, and talent management. The concepts of agile are also therefore radically changing the way HR works and organises itself so that it can facilitate responsiveness and adaptiveness of activities and structures.

The Agile HR function also facilitates flexibility by matching customer demand with workforce fluctuations thus supporting the organisation in becoming more responsive and adaptive in a rapidly changing environment. This type of flexibility is now well documented in Aerospace where some companies have successfully implemented an Agile approach to at least parts of their activities such as with new projects.

In a recent Blog post by Calvium an App designer and manufacturer (https://calvium.com) working in several sectors including aerospace, “setting up agile teams helps aerospace manufacturers improve their speed to market and reduce costs by up to 50% and at the same time develop products that are more responsive to customer needs. Agile teams enjoy faster design cycles with a greater focus on customer and market demands, with products more aligned to customer and market expectations”.

Another example of Agile management in Aerospace is with the Swiss aircraft manufacturer Pilatus where their P24 order book was open and closed in windows to establish demand and plan manufacturing resource (https://www.pilatus-aircraft.com/en/fly/pc-24). According to Ignaz Gretener – VP of General Aviation at Pilatus “Shutting the orderbook and stopping even loyal Pilatus customers buying as many aircraft as they wanted was not a difficult decision. The plan was always going to be to take three years’ worth of orders in 2014 and stop there. Our intention was not to have speculation and to protect our residuals.”

Another reason Pilatus wanted to limit the number of operators was to gain important performance data from around the world and make any necessary tweaks. And according to Gretener, “although the PC-24 retains features of the venerable PC-12, including short-runway performance, versatility, and single-pilot operation, professional aviators are more likely to fly the jet, so feedback will be very different”.

There are powerful arguments and compelling reasons which support agile working in Aerospace. As can be seen, speed, quality, prioritisation, discipline and adaptability are qualities that Agile management brings to ensure the product is driven by business requirements, reducing the risk of building the wrong product. The only things stopping Agile being used exclusively are the lack of experience with Agile methods, company philosophy or culture and lack of management support.

Footnote:

Accurity GmbH was founded 20 years ago and its core business is that of supporting agile and flexible working by providing employment services for contractors/freelancers. We offer a personal facilitation platform for companies, workers and recruiters to engage with each other for special projects and at the same time simplify the engagement process for all stakeholders. We are a leading provider of employment services to the IT and Aerospace sectors in Switzerland.

Reference sources: forbes.com / hbr.org / deloitte.com / tech.gsa.gov / calvium.com / pilatus-aircraft.com / www.agile.org.uk