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The failings of Singapore Airlines

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The failings of Singapore Airlines

Old 15th Jul 2001, 09:28
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Post The failings of Singapore Airlines

What has gone wrong with Singapore Airlines over the last few years? Why has a self confessed world leader in passenger innovation so miserably failed the very people it so endearingly relies upon :its staff.

In 1981, Dr Meredith Belbin, an expert on IT team building, was perplexed to discover that teams of highly capable individuals can, collectively, perform badly. He coined the phrase the Apollo Syndrome, which I believe is a contributing factor to the demise of SIA.

Singapore Airlines local cadet recruitment strategy revolves around a series of classroom exercises, followed by a formal interview, tea party and if you are considered suitable, a medical.Physiological tests are not so much used to weed out the grossly unsuitable, but to select a specific type of mailable personality.

The back side of this selection procedure is uniformity of the individual recruited. Usually young professionals, twenty somethings with tertiary education.Basically speaking, its Aldous Huxleys "Brave New World", individualism is replaced by conformism, recruits are technically proficient although unproven outside the realms of the sterility of Singapore.

The Apollo Syndrome is born by lack of alternative thought or lateral thinking.The group consists of similar individuals, who have similar reasoning. By using a ridgid policy of standardised selection for several decades, Singapore Airlines has become an inbred and incestuous machine. Devoid of any fresh initiative, it necessitates the same old Draconian policies that served it well in the past, but under the new world globalisation, has found itself wanting.

Characterisms of the Apollo syndrome are that firstly, management teams spent excessive time in abortive or destructive debate, trying to persuade other team members to adopt their own view, and demonstrating a flair for spotting weaknesses in others' arguments. This is personified in SIA, how many times has an SIA captain been required to justify his descions made on the line, infront of his fleet manager, maybe several weeks after the flight?

Secondly, management have difficulties in their decision making, with little coherence in the decisions reached (several pressing and necessary jobs are often omitted). With reference to SIA's 4th floor, nice that management agreed on a bonus scheme in accordance with group profit to reward staff, then try to reduce it to placate their shareholders.

SIA selects its most "meritorious" pilots for command training and subsequently promotions to management.There is no seniority, and budding individuals would have to have a excellent history to succeed (ie sycophantic compliancy). Dr Belbin's studies concluded that putting together a team of the cleverest individuals does not necessarily produce the best results, and the team needs to be designed ensuring that there is a blend of management roles.

Quite commonly , in Singapore, when any lateral thought is required, then a company will recruit externally from Singapore, to attract "foreign talent".This is a euphonism for short term contract employees required to shore up the inadequacies of Singapore's inbred corporate thinking.How many expatriate captains are SIA trying to employ to dilute the blinkered vision of the existing local captains and first officers? Expatriate captains are now invited to join the management teams. Whether their views will be taken on board is another question.Consequently, like all things in Singapore, its about image more than substance.

Regarding the SQ6 tragedy, the follow up is a classic case of the Apollo Syndrome. Discussions emanating from flight ops indicates that blame be laid with the Taiwan authorities, pilots, but not the guys who devised its policies.Each side is trying to get the other to concede the flaws in his/her argument, without conceding the flaws in his own. The way out of this situation is to look for the points of agreement, rather than trying to spot flaws. But,unfortunately mind sets run deep in Singaporean culture, and will take decades to reverse. Upcoming prospective high flyers in the system have all ultimately been selected because of their conformist nature. The failings of the system will follow from old to young, to fester in the company like a dormant virus, waiting to continue its infection long after the time of contraction.
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Old 15th Jul 2001, 12:45
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Think you meant psychological and not physiological. There is a difference.
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Old 16th Jul 2001, 01:06
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Some years ago a local professor from the National University of Singapore commenting on the education system, was reported by the Straits Times as saying, "We have taught our students what to think, but not HOW to think." Has nothing changed?

[ 15 July 2001: Message edited by: whalecapt ]
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