The aerospace sector has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. Whether in civil aviation, aircraft construction, the space sector, or the military, change has been the only constant. Just consider the deregulation of markets, the challenges of airspace traffic control or the huge increases to security post-9/11. Then there is the arrival of disruptive new economic models – low cost carriers, leasing booms and so on. Plus, a whole range of new technologies, including data analytics, automation, blockchain, IoT, drones, vertical take-off and landing aircraft and wifi/lifi to contend with.
And let’s not forget the space sector, with NewSpace and space tourism making headline news, as well as new global manufacturers from China, Russia, India, Mexico, Tunisia, Morocco, and the UAE shaking up the market.
Over the last 20 years we have seen more aeronautical advancements worldwide than at any other point in aviation history. From the world’s largest commercial airliner, the Airbus A380, to the Embraer Legacy series in the corporate sector, innovation and market change has come thick and fast. The steep increase in production has seen industry players optimising their supply chain, working differently, while ramping up digitisation and automation in order to satisfy demand that is growing by 4-6% annually on a global scale. These developments are impacting global sourcing and creating new issues around supply, quality and delivery times. This has led to a substantial leasing and retrofit activity that is disrupting industry practices. From now on, there will be a need for professionalisation and optimisation of activities at all levels: this in a sector that has previously been rather conservative, or product-oriented, in the way it navigates the market.
Such upheaval is raising new questions regarding aerospace executive training. Aerospace traditionally has much longer project cycles, with aeronautical programmes sometimes lasting around 40 years. As a sector it was previously less concerned by rapid market transformations, such as digitisation, new consumer habits, and environmental concerns. However, certain key players saw the changes on the horizon and collaborated with leading training institutions to develop high-level programmes for aerospace engineers and technical managers. The main idea was to prepare them for management in more volatile, uncertain and complex environments. So, how should the focus of aerospace management and leadership training be geared to reflect these many changes?
Building a community
Beyond the value of the academic content, it is face-to-face peer learning that offers the richest and most useful experience to participants in executive training programmes. Taking the time to adopt a critical point of view, to take a step back from established practices, and to identify areas for improvement can be achieved through dedicated workshops, case studies and ongoing interactions. And through participation in external events (consultations, conferences and meetings) that their understanding can be developed and lessons put into context.
There is nothing like the development of soft-skills to help managers adapt to market changes. This includes role-playing, case studies, feedback discussions, regular presentations in class or at conferences, public speaking workshops, multicultural team skills training, and leadership sessions. At the core of developing soft-skills is business ethics. By training leaders to examine their individual conduct and morality, they receive a foundation for leading tomorrow’s organisations in a more transparent, agile and ethical way.
Forming a strategy requires going beyond in-depth analysis, data analytics and data science. The rational data should be complemented by a qualitative approach, relying on attitudes, behaviour, and culture of the diverse stakeholders. Final decisions and go-live implementations rest on an individual’s judgement of how it might impact a particular strategy. A prolonged immersion in a multicultural environment enables managers to make cultural adaptations and to integrate the evolving and complex environment into new strategies. It is of the utmost importance to incorporate environmental, social, and societal issues at the core of strategic thinking. Leaders must consider the impact of their managerial decisions and practices, both short- and long-term. It is therefore critical to:
- Embrace academic content, new ideas, mindsets, trends and, ultimately, new ways to approach your career.
- Engage with your company, with faculty and with alumni.
- Embrace leading your project, your team and your organisation.