Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes….

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By AJ Muldoon
There are myriad challenges change can present to an organization, particularly an airport. Today’s concurrent session: “Systematically and Strategically Managing Change” covered this topic from two different perspectives. DFW’s Chris Poinsatte and Toronto’s Lloyd McCoomb described implementing organization-wide change in a systematic manner. Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, of St. Louis, described reacting to dramatic change from without.

Change can be implemented and managed throughout the organization in order to achieve specific goals and objectives, said Poinsatte, executive vice president and CFO of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The importance of achieving buy-in from all levels of the organization, he said. To achieve that, developing and prioritizing goals and objectives and using performance management systems to track progress is critical.

The challenge of implementing fundamental changes to an organization can be a “Mission: Impossible,” said McCoomb, president and CEO of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority in describing Toronto’s transition from a government-run facility to a private, not-for-profit corporation. In order to become a vibrant, entrepreneurial enterprise, the staff’s bureaucratic culture and behavior had to be changed. McCoomb believes that storytelling is the best way to implement cultural change. Managers must have a compelling story illustrating the need for change, a clear strategy to achieve it and a system of accountability to monitor progress. Providing constant feedback on progress achieved provides motivation for continued improvement.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport experienced with a different kind of change when in April, 2010, the airport was struck by a devastating tornado, said CEO Rhonda Hamm- Niebruegge. This was change that was neither wanted nor anticipated. After the tornado struck, St. Louis set an aggressive goal of having the airport back to 100 percent of operations within five days. By setting a clear goal with specific, measurable results, the airport was able to meet the goal and quickly recover from an overwhelming event.