Accelerating Business Transformation in the Aftermath of COVID-19

Anni Stores

Head of Business Change and Continuous Improvement at Manchester Airport Group

Learning Objectives

Key Takeaways:

  • Highlight the integration of new practices: the importance of new innovations

  • Measure and track the economic value of these transformation initiatives

  • What have been the common problems of rolling out a new strategy?

"Accelerating business transformation in the aftermath of COVID-19 is important to us in order to support our recovery and regrowth. "

Anni Stores

Head of Business Change and Continuous Improvement at Manchester Airport Group


Hi, I’m Anni Stores, and I work for Manchester Airports Group. Thanks for joining me today, where I’ll be sharing with you how MAG is accelerating business transformation in the aftermath of COVID-19. If you have any questions for me whilst listening to my presentation, please drop them down below.

A bit more about us first. MAG is the largest group of airports in the UK, and owns and operates three UK airports: East Midlands, Manchester, and London Stansted. In 2019, the groups are over 50 million passengers flying through its airports and supported the employment of more than 40,000 people on site. The impact of COVID-19 on our organization has been significant, with passenger numbers down 90% across the first 12 months of the pandemic. However, MAG has played an integral part in working across industry and with government to influence and shape the roadmap for travel.

A bit more about me. With a Project Management and Business Improvement background in Telecommunications, I joined MAG in 2017 as Group Transformation Manager, and set out to shape the continuous improvement strategy and implementation. I’ve since been promoted twice, and now hold the role as Head of Business Change and Continuous Improvement.

Now, at MAG, we’ve spent time during the pandemic periods to shape the organizational strategy, initially focusing on right sizing the business to ensure we’re responding to the immediate crisis. Going forward, focusing on building back smarter to transform the business, driving further efficiencies and supporting recovery through transformational change. Underpinning our organizational strategy, we have our refresh digital and data transformation strategy and continuous improvement strategy.

The vision for the digital and data transformation strategy is to leverage data led insights about customers, operations, and external factors to consistently drive continuous improvement, one that supports decision making, value based delivery, as well as sustainable long term efficiencies.

The vision for the continuous improvement strategy is to drive transformational change by embedding continuous improvement across our organization, and delivering incremental benefits that overall support the delivery of our business plan and targets. In order to deliver the transformation required to support these strategies, our focus is around a one truth plan that the organization can support, driven by top down sponsorship and leadership, capability based models to ensure we have the right capabilities in place at the right time to deliver against our objectives, and standardization and consistency across local functions, and leverage of the group model.

The outcomes that these will deliver are increased productivity and process efficiency, supporting passenger recovery and growth, a new operating model that drives sustainable efficiencies, insight and intelligent thinking, and delivery against our business plan targets.

Accelerating business transformation in the aftermath of COVID-19 is important to us in order to support our recovery and regrowth. Whilst the last 12 months have been extremely challenging for the entire sector, we now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to build the organization back up through transformation, focusing on recovery and improvements for our guests and colleagues.

Focusing further on our continuous improvement strategy as both an approach and a culture. The four facets to support this are freedom within a framework is a concept, ensuring teams are empowered to identify and drive their own improvements, cultural change to ensure, as an organization, we’re consistently thinking and operating with a continuous improvement mindset, spans of control to provide our teams with the right level of support to operate with our new ways of working, and continuous improvement tools, methodologies to drive and deliver the transformational change required, and ensuring this is embedded and adopted to deliver the value based outcomes defined.

At MAG, we started on our continuous improvement journey in 2017, and have had some great successes over this period. But this approach is more important than ever now to continue driving forward our transformational change to achieve our objectives and deliver against the defined strategy. To implement our continuous improvement approach, we’re focusing on people. Training, coaching, and mentoring our colleagues and continuous improvement skills, and ensuring the learning is embedded through the delivery of live projects whilst receiving their training. We have a number of yellow and green belts within the organization. We’re looking at extending this further to provide white belt training and awareness through to dedicated and skilled black belts. As we’re a group, we continue to share best practices and outputs of initiatives to support the rollout of consistent standardized ways of working.

Process. Process Excellence is at the heart of what we do, and is where, in my opinion, we have a lot of opportunity to create efficiencies and improve the experience for our colleagues and guests. In my experience, I found that process optimization is often free or low cost, usually just utilizing existing infrastructure, assets, or resource to optimize our ways of working and therefore, can generate high value returns and efficiency within an area.

Continuous improvement, which is delivered mainly through project work and delivery of initiatives. To support this, we have a documented methodology for how continuous improvement can be applied across MAG, and a central knowledge repository, where we hold our collateral self service user guides and details of projects or initiatives delivered that can be shared as best practice across the group.

Finally, culture. Culture is so important in delivering continuous improvement to ensure that all colleagues are thinking with a continuous improvement mindset, such as observing issues, highlighting those issues, and putting plans in place to resolve them, particularly if those issues are affecting the guest or colleague experience or performance. At MAG, we empower our colleagues through the use of continuous improvement supported by toolkits, methodologies, and frameworks to provide levels of autonomy to make those improvements. Eventually, we would like to see continuous improvement built into colleague objectives, and a proportion of time within each role that can be dedicated further to continuous improvement activity.

At MAG, we’re utilizing the innovation lifecycle to assess and prioritize ideas, solutions, or problems to deliver transformational change. These ideas can be generated by any area of the business, and a design factory team of skilled colleagues will develop those concepts further through the delivery of rapid assessments, capability maps, and sprint studies. Much of this process utilizes continuous improvement toolkits and methodologies to expand on these ideas further, and develop the concepts that can be taken through for approval and prioritization.

Leaning on our governance approvals will be provided by our design authority, and prioritized against the current needs of the business and the value that these transformational changes will deliver. From here, we mobilize to project delivery, which could take a number of forms that’s appropriate for the project itself, for example, Continuous Improvement Plan, Do Check Act, or traditional Waterfall Approach. This continuous cycle of innovation supports the culture of continuous improvement across MAG, and continues to feed the pipeline of ideas and initiatives.

I’ll now share some of the continuous improvement projects that have been delivered to support the transformational change, focused on delivering incremental benefits within functions that overall drives the transformation required, and benefits delivered to support the delivery of the business plan and objectives. Some examples of our continuous improvement projects, and I’ll go left to right, top to bottom.

Vinyl decals and security trays and tray hoppers to encourage guests to self clear and tray return, resulting in increased productivity in the security lanes, and efficiency when processing guests through security. New signage to support airport wayfinding, which in turn supports our guests experience in ensuring seamless travel within our airports. Improved processes to support efficiency and remove wasted time, resulting in increased productivity and an improved colleague experience. Then, combining both signage and process improvement to support the airport swipe and return to work processes. This is mainly focused on improving the colleague experience. For example, resolving swipe issues reduces errors in payroll, and an improved return to work process provides colleagues with the right level of support following an absence. Finally, improvements in our car parks, providing mirrors to help guess when parking. Curb bumpers or barrier points to reduce the risk of damage to cars, supporting the guest experience.

All of these projects were delivered by frontline colleagues who use continuous improvement methodologies to identify problems within their functions, and solutions to resolve these problems to deliver significant and tangible benefits to the organization. The colleagues that have been upskilled have continued to utilize their continuous improvement training, skills, and experience to continue solving problems within their areas.

Accelerating transformation will always come with challenges. However, our approach to overcoming these challenges is clear direction and communication of organizational strategy and priorities from top down, demonstrating that strong leadership and sponsorship for the approach. Collaboration. Ensuring changes done with people, not to them, and utilizing the skills and experience we hold across the group to optimize the value that can be delivered. Common goals that all colleagues can get on board with, and support the delivery and progression of our recovery and regrowth plans. Governance. Ensuring all the checks and balances are put in place and standardizing our ways of working to support delivery. Finally, accountability and ownership. Bringing structure and clarity to the part that individuals play in delivering the organizational strategy and transformational activities.

Whilst MAG still has a long road ahead to recovery, we’re excited about the opportunities that this will bring. Thank you for taking the time to listen in today. I hope you find it interesting. Please pop any questions you may have for me down below. Thank you.

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