32 thoughts on “Leadership Nudge 184 – Leaders Fix the Environment, Not People

  1. Admitting to a delay might cause claims by passengers for compensation and might therefore not be encouraged by the airline.

  2. Sorry for the late reply (did not want to inform you earlier) but why do several of you blame the gate agents? There seems to be an environment that doesn't make them take any action (fear perhaps). So why call for management, that is just what they fear… The problem could be in the system, and the gate agents can't change the system, only their managent can.

    ps., I also would like to know what that Spanish guy had to say :-).

    Keep up the good work!

  3. My guess would be that respect is not a strong company value, which makes safety low and passivity high.

  4. This was the original boarding time probably based on the scheduled departure time. Plane came late, cleaning is late, crew is late … but boarding time does not change. The information system is not flexible and the staff is not empowered to do such changes. The authority does not sit with the right people for sure! Gate Agents could be the heroes if they were able to do this…

  5. From the gate agent perspective, I am guessing, by not informing and leaving things up in the air they give you nothing specific you can complain about.  They therefore will have less work because of this.  I think they see information as awakening the beast.  If you don't nudge him then he may not notice you a little longer.

  6. the real source of the problem is that the time all together is even posted. that's the source of "dissappointment" or tension. "the source of all dissappointment is misplaced expectations"- i forget the actual source of that quote. had the time never been posted, everyone would be happy and waiting happily. with that said, the flight attentandants essentially and most likely have no control over the time or the time posted. i dont know how that could be changed but that's what of the environment that needs to change. it's not the people…..it's that clock up on the wall showing a "precise" time in a not precise environment.

  7. It's the opposite of the Ryanair effect – they have trumpets to announce the arrival of "another on-time arrival" but how many airlines want to trumpet that they are arriving (or leaving) late?!

  8. Looking at the whole system, there are some obvious things to notice: 1. boarding time is decoupled from actual departure time 2. there are fixed "slots" for departures of airplanes 3. passengers in front of the boarding gate want reasonably accurate information, which the airline employee does not seem to have, in the way the system currently operates.

    A brutally honest system might help: assume that slots are fixed & a rough estimate of the actual number of passengers is available, since check-in closes a bit earlier. With reasonable accuracy, we may infer the latest possible boarding time from the scheduled slot, and the average time it takes to board x people safely before departure. The display should then simply read: "Boarding needs to start in ca. N minutes, otherwise we'll lose the slot." Won't happen, I fear…

  9. It happens so often that they no longer care.   There are too many delays and they feel impotent to fix them, so even when they can be kind and thoughtful, they no longer think to do it.   Or they fear that if they say we will board in 15 minutes, it will be 30 and the passengers will get wild on them.

  10. I'd say it has to do with their training and the habits that are created by the company/coworkers

  11. It’s the Office Space principle – no incentive for the agent to communicate or push out information in a timely manner other than people won’t yell at them. In another 15 minutes all 250 people will be boarding and chances are those agents will never interact with them again. It’s a gamble against non-confrontation.

  12. Interessting that almost everyone tries to fix the people and not the environment. Maybe we can suggest an experiment: add the expected boarding time to the sign and send a short message to the crew's phone when boarding time is in jeopardy?

  13. Fear of conflict. If they don't bring it up, they hope the passengers will not notice. I have been in a similar situation in San Diego, where the flight was cancelled, and the gate agents fled for back rooms leaving everyone in the dark about what was happening with their travel. A few brief words about the status goes a long way on relieving peoples' anxieties.

  14. If they speak with the people, the people will wish to speak back…ask questions…and engage. Standing behind a barrier means not having to deal with the bored mob that wants to engage.

  15. The airline "performance" mechanism is tied to getting the plane off on time, not the passengers boarded.

  16. The authority isn't pushed to where the mistaken information exists. Unnecessary rules are in place creating an "environment" where people can not make the change.

  17. I think they have one goal at mind and it is very short term. get this flight out. If they had a goal defined by the airline such as" make our customers happy" , they would do even more than just announce the delay. they would add "We are sorry for the delay, we are trying the best we can with all our resources so this delay will not impact your travel plans". looks like this airline core value is to make money and not to make their customers happy by transporting them from place to place the best way possible.

  18. The airlines don't have a written required procedure to make the gate agents inform the passengers.

  19. I agree with Jeremiah about the physical separation aspect. They passengers are "contained" in their holding pen, the agents know the passengers are ready so they may not feel compelled to round them up. Is being late a common occurrence for this airline/airport and therefore not worth mentioning in the minds of the agents?

  20. It's the physical environment.  The crowd of workers and the crowd of travelers are seperated by both a counter and zig-zagging rope.  Each crowd begins to feel like a 'tribe.'  Look how each tribe congregates and doesn't interact with the other.  I think the worker-crowd sensed Marquet was a threat from the other tribe and confronted him!         In short:  remove the physical barriers so the groups will interact.  Make sure the workers know how to work with a crowd to create a positive experience.

  21. It seems to me that the agents do not feel engaged with the company, and that likely the company does not highly value it's agents. This leads to them merely doing what they are told, and not taking proactive measures to communicate delays.

  22. Lack of conscious empathy. The gate people just don't think to think about how those waiting passengers (or any customer) feels in this situation and what would make them feel better. Low impact, low effort, low cost…just have to say a few words.

  23. I think the amount of flyers/customers could intimidate an agent, especially when there’s “bad” news to relay. It’s never fun having 250+ people upset at YOU!

  24. I see this a lot in the tourist industry, the hotel and travel industries.  They employees are just burned out on the number of people they have to deal with on a daily basis.  They don't see the individuals, they see the masses.  It's hard to make a personal connection with a crowd.

  25. There are a number of good comments here. I know nothing about Spain and Spanish culture, but it could also be the case that punctuality isn't a norm there, so a short boarding delay isn't worth mentioning.

  26. Its very simple.
    If they admit that they are late, they cant write that they have a history of "ON TIME DEPARTURE"

  27. There may be many layers as to why the agents are choosing to remain silent. They may not know how long the delay will be. Making any kind of announcement may cause answering more questions. They may simply be so used to this common practice of late boarding that they figure everyone else is used to it as well. They may have been instructed to not give "additional information". I personally think all three of these reasons are counter productive and are selling the customer short. Bad news I can deal with and accept. Being left in the dark and getting zero interaction is never a good practice. Getting back in the habit of communicating with each other will soften many of these situations.

  28. The environment change is the need for management to push situational ownership out to the agent level.

  29. In the best case, they have a bad set KPI on punctuality. If they alert you they recognise they are late.

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