Home' Australian Aviation Magazine : December 09 Contents 34
DECEMBER 2009 AUSTRALIAN AVIATION
"When I first came into this
business I thought to myself,
how hard can this be? They do
air traffic control, fire services
and they've got guys that fix
things... Well bloody hard, that's
the answer, it's much more
complicated than certainly what I
thought when I arrived here."
Greg Russell has just entered the fifth
year of his term as head of Australia's air
traffic management (ATM) and aviation
rescue and firefighting (ARFF) provider,
steering the organisation through tumultu-
ous times. Little wonder he has described
running the government owned but for
profit monopoly service provider as "bloody
hard". Only in May this year did Airserv-
ices and the union (Civil Air) representing
its air traffic controllers conclude a tortuous
and poisonous near 18 month long col-
lective agreement negotiation process that
nearly brought the nation's airline system to
a standstill back in February when control-
lers overwhelmingly voted in favour of
en there were broader workforce
issues of an ageing staff demographic
that if unchecked would leave Airservices
short of critical personnel in the near to
medium term, a rundown asset base from
1960s vintage control towers to ageing fire
trucks, the complexities of introducing new
technologies such as ADS-B, GBAS and
RNP, and a "dysfunctional" organisational
structure that had been created with an eye
to possible privatisation, marked by 'silos'
with separate profit and loss (P&L) lines
and the distracting pursuit of third party
" at fundamental dysfunction," Russell
related in a recent inter view with Austral-
ian Aviation, "was just the first major set
of hurdles we needed to overcome. Hence
the restructuring of the organisation and
a change in the business model." at
included, said Russell, scrapping the sepa-
rate business units with their own P&Ls,
a focus on working together across the
organisation, better internal information
systems, improved HR processes, and cen-
tralising activities and policies that in some
instances had differed across the country.
Now, four years on, Russell notes that
real change is apparent, despite the difficult
journey so far.
"People have come in and out of this
business over the years and said 'I've been
out for five years and nothing much has
changed'. Well, they won't be able to say
that about Airservices by the time I've
finished -- I can tell you that."
at change is manifesting in three areas,
"people, assets, ser vices", which Russell
describes as Airser vices's strategy in three
words, which is being addressed by guid-
ance from a series of five year plans. Five
years plans sound awfully dry, but they do
set out public markers which the organi-
sation's progress and reform can be held to
account against, and give the organisation a
much clearer sense of direction.
"Initially, when I first arrived the idea of
getting a hold of the corporate plan and
working the plan was some time away,"
Russell recalled. "Basically we were dealing
with a whole bunch of issues that needed
some urgent attention, the structure and
fundamentally getting control, and now
with those systems in place, and I might
say a pretty good management team now
as well, that we're now getting to the next
stages of maturity in this place."
e five year corporate plan, which is
updated annually, is now supported by five
year workforce and air traffic management
services plans, then there are planning
documents for asset management, ARFF
services and so forth.
"I think it's more efficient, I think it's
better focused on the stakeholder and
customer environment that we operate in,"
Russell said of change within Airservices.
"It's not perfect but we're getting there."
It's on the people front where change
has been the most dramatic and problem-
atic, but equally where some of the biggest
changes are now manifesting.
"We've started to tackle a whole lot of
issues," Russell noted. "If you don't have
proper workforce planning, how do you
know who to recruit? How do you know
who to train? How do you measure the
success of various parts of that chain? e
new people that you're bringing into the
CEO Greg Russell on reform-
ing Airservices Australia
"I say to people, this isn't a job, this is a mission,
and I know what this place can do."
Interviewby Gerard Frawley, photos by Paul Sadler
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