Change Management: What is it? When should I use it?
  • Don Baldwin

Change Management: What is it? When should I use it?


We are asked quite often for a detailed explanation of how to manage change and why we must do so in an aviation organization. The simplest answer is that change brings about additional risks that need to be mitigated and controlled. A few examples of change may include the following:

  • Replacing an aircraft with another type

  • Change of leadership personnel

  • Changes to policies and procedures

  • Crew retention and turnover

  • Adding other locations and operating bases

Although most changes in an organization will be pretty straightforward, ANY change in an organization requires some attention. Too often we hear people say that they do not have time for managing a change to a flight operation because they don’t have the resources. This avoidance could have severe consequences going forward. Let’s start with a definition right out of ICAO Document 9859:

“A formal process for systematic and proactive identification of hazards and of appropriate mitigation strategies and measures, to be applied to all changes concerning the safety of services provided by an aviation organization.”

Where to start? A change management process should identify changes within the organization that may affect established procedures, processes, products, or services. Identify what is changing, what is different, and what the change will impact. The goal of this process is a reduction in the safety risks resulting from changes made by the organization to the As Low As Reasonably Practical (ALARP) level. For example, consider the following issue:

The FAA is considering eliminating a circling approach procedure to an airport where you operate. You have an older aircraft without approved area navigation equipment.

  1. Will you be able to serve our customers during IFR conditions?

  2. What impact will there be on your organization? Possibilities include:

  • Advising customers on the change and alternatives

  • Chartering an aircraft capable of flying the required approach

  • Installing equipment capable of flying straight-in approaches

  • Amendments to the policy on circling approaches

  • Crew training

  • New maintenance requirements

  • And the list goes on…

Identify each specific area that will need to be addressed such as management, equipment, operations, training, etc. Identify each and every aspect that the change will touch. Once each area is identified, document and do the following for each:

  • Describe how the change will impact this specific area and how critical it is

  • Assess the risk and resulting exposure

  • Document the mitigation implemented to decrease risk to its lowest reasonable level

  • Assign a champion to be responsible for this specific area of change

This is a proven plan for managing change in your organization. Spend time to ensure everyone who is impacted is briefed and understands what is expected. The time spent on your change management process will be beneficial in reducing and mitigating future operational risk.

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