What goes into a Strategy Planning meeting?

A few weeks ago you may have seen a tweet regarding the executive team participating in a strategy planning session. I hope to give you some more background information as to why we are formalizing our planning process and hope to dangle a few gems throughout to detail things that we plan to do or do differently.

One of the goals set forth for this year was to have the entire staff make better use of the blog and make it more engaging for you, our pilots. Instead of strictly being a broadcast medium to disseminate news, we’d like to add some fresh new content; new perspectives from staff where you’ll learn more about them on an individual level or figure out what a hub manager really does. Occasionally you may see an article from a guest author; Have you ever wondered what they do with all of those retired aircraft sitting in the desert? Are you drinking out of a soda can today that was made from the plane you flew yesterday?

Enough daydreaming and back to the task of discussing strategic planning. In the past you could say that sometimes we flew by the seat of our pants. In the past year we have tried to formalize pieces of our decision making processes so that our decisions and plans weren’t as erratic as they were when MetroAir started back in 2006. As an example, the Operations and Executive team was very thorough when we started considering a transfer from Washington Dulles to Baltimore. All aspects of the airline were considered before making the move including personnel and the impact on pilots, to the availability of scenery, to the finest details like delay statistics at the airports and how it compared to other possible locations. In large part due to the research and planning, this ended up being one of the smoothest launches we have had to date and we want to keep that momentum going.

In our last strategic planning meeting we covered a few different areas and defined a couple of primary goals to try to give a mission and theme to our first quarter; One of those goals is training. We want to expand our training offerings. Ken Adams has been on staff for a little over a year and he and his team are finally wrapping some things up. You’ll get to see some guides on Weather and Reading Charts amongst some other informative resources that they have planned. Our training department has some ambitious goals for the rest of the year so you’ll want to keep your ears open and maybe try to pry for gossip from one of the guys in the training department.

Not only is MetroAir focused on pilot training, but we are looking inward and trying to develop some better staff training as well. We had a successful test program of cross-training the staff. Sean took a seat at William’s desk, or at least attempted to despite all the paperwork and clutter, and learned a little more about how Operations works while William dashed through Sean’s stack of pireps to process to see what kind of challenges Sean sees on a daily basis. Since both guys seemed to enjoy it, we are opening it to other staff members and will be doing it more regularly; it helps everyone on staff better understand another staff member’s responsibilities and roles while helping to improve the staff morale since we are a little more aware of some of the unique challenges each staff position has. Another opportunity for staff training appeared when our Hub Managers participated in a pirep processing exercise to review pireps as a team to better define common problems with pireps and to decide how to handle some situations.

Planning for the future also becomes a large part of strategic planning. Operations planning can be a challenging and daunting task; It’s always a look to see if we need more aircraft, a new fleet type to better service some routes, starting service to a new city or swapping to use a different airport that might better serve our international passengers. To that end, the exec team was tasked with producing a couple of SWOT analyses to fully understand what we may potentially be getting ourselves in for and so that we can make better decisions for potential changes that may appear in the coming year.

Are you exhausted yet? That’s was a really long post to say that MetroAir is on the move; we’re always on the move trying to find the next big thing to keep ourselves challenged and keep the airline fresh for both our veteran and new pilots alike. Sometime we fail but we’re always trying to improve. It’s a safe bet to say that the strategic planning will continue in the months to come. Sometimes you may even see some of the information leak out. If you were paying attention, you’re already one step ahead of everyone else. Speaking of paying attention – if you’re one of the first five  pilots to read this post, I’ll give you 50 MetroMiles if you use the Contact Us form with the Corporate/Events subject and can state the names of the two staff members who participated in a cross-training test program.

It’s a great time to be a MetroAir pilot. Some may argue it’s an even better time to be a MetroAir staff member. Our staff is really great, always thinking and really do the best they can to make the experience even better for our pilots. They endure a lot as volunteers and really step up to the plate. Any company in the real world would wish to have as good of a team as the staff at MetroAir. I wish I could give them a paycheck (or direct deposit since it’s cheaper), give them a vacation in the Hawaiian islands or send them backpacking through Europe. Instead I can just thank them and encourage the pilots to thank them for all that they do.

Oh, and if you are wondering what kind of posts staff will be writing about in the future I heard you may see some of the following topics:

  • Calculating flight time and getting feedback on routes and connections
  • The history of being a MetroAir staff member and what it has meant
  • and one of my favorites, “Blurring the lines of a virtual airline” with some stories about applications we have received by people looking for a real job and some potential customers looking for a charter flight.