Here is a great piece on how WestJet used one of the tools we provide (in this case a OneSmartWorld program) to dramatically increase their efficiency and bottom line. Enjoy. ~ Jay lundy
By Daniel St. Germaine
Courtesy of OneSmartWorld
Since 1996, WestJet Airlines has been a growing player in the Canadian airline industry. Famous for its good-humoured flight-attendants and reliable service, WestJet is a company with its head on straight. The airline is seen as a model of success and innovation in an industry where the challenges are great and the competitors, many.
I sat down with WestJet Organizational Development Specialist Pam August to talk about how WestJet uses OneSmartWorld (OSW) systems to get an edge on the competition.
Daniel St. Germaine: Could you describe your organization and your role within it?
Pam August: WestJet Airlines is a high value, low-cost Canadian airline that is familiar to many Canadians. We fly to a number of destinations in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, and Mexico. I’m an Organizational Development Specialist and I help teams and leaders work more effectively together to achieve the organization’s goals. More specifically, what I do is have conversations with people so that they can have better conversations with each other.
DS: What was the feel of the organization before you started using OSW systems?
PA: The feel of the organization now is very much the same as the feel before. We’re a young organization that’s growing. We’ve experienced a lot of success but also challenges as we mature as an organization. The last two years have been particularly challenging for us because of the recession, as well as the fact that we implemented a new reservation system – which was not without great challenges of its own. What we are really focusing on now is our “core”– our people, our costs, and our guests. The OSW system, for those teams who have used it, has been particularly effective in helping people to understand others’ approaches to thinking, and how they can think better together.
DS: What was the specific challenge OSW was brought in to address?
PA: We wanted a tool to use for team development that would offer more than just playing What’s your sign? A lot of other instruments are very interesting but they’re not particularly useful when it comes to doing any work. What we saw in OSW was an opportunity for people to learn about themselves, learn about each other, and to have a common language so they can work better together.
DS: How exactly are the OSW systems used in your organization?
PA: They’re used in a few different ways. When teams approach us to do team-building, we sit down and try to find out what exactly they’re hoping to accomplish. Generally what we find is that they want to find a way to communicate and connect better with each other – we use the OneSmartWorld System to accomplish that. From a sustainability perspective – where we had the most “bang for our buck” was in using OSW as part of a robust OD Intervention that we call Case-Based Development.
DS: What exactly does OD Intervention mean?
PA: OD stands for Organizational Development – and this refers to the kind of development that is more than just going to a training program. What we say at WestJet is that development happens 70% through experienced-based development on the job, 20% through support from coaching and feedback, and 10% through formal learning or training. In the past we put more emphasis on the training aspect, but what we have just done is complete a pilot project with our procurement department that involved using OSW as a platform to do case-based development. What happened was, cross-functional teams were formed in the department, they were given big open-ended leadership challenges by their leadership team, and a three-month period of time to address the problem within. We used OSW to help people learn about their thinking styles, and as a team development tool where people learned about the thinking of their team mates who were people they typically didn’t work with. We also colour-coded the problem solving process so that teams would be using the same thinking strategies at the same time. We also use the SmarterMeetings system for team meetings to keep those meetings on track.
DS: How has the OSW system changed or impacted the people of the organization and their interactions with each other? And what indicators have you noticed?
A: For the case-based development program what what we would see is people using the common language. They would say things like “Hey guys, we need to be operating in yellow. We’re jumping to red.” People were not only using the language of colour, but also using the various thinking strategies to communicate. We saw that people had not only learned about themselves and their preferences, but were also using what they had learned about thinking to shift into the mind set that was needed. We also saw them using the language of personal-spirit. We would use the factor of personal-spirit as a gauge to see how teams were doing.
DS: Is there a particular story of success that you could share?
PA: In the procurement department project – the final presentation that the teams made to their senior leadership teams significantly exceeded expectations. They generated solutions and recommendations that the leadership team did not anticipate. They presented them with a level of professionalism and confidence that was also unexpected. Those suggestions are now being adopted as part of the major works change. For us here on the OD team, we use the OSW system and the common language all the time – either to point out the kind of thinking we need to do, or the kind that’s happening and that needs to be shifted.
DS: What would you say to others who are considering using the OSW system?
PA: I would say that the power of OneSmartWorld is that its a solution for both people and processes and that all the of pieces work really well to support specific learning needs.
Daniel St. Germaine is a freelance writer, editor, and blogger. He writes from Toronto and Collingwood, ON.