ACTIVE LISTENING AT AIR FRANCE

22 Dec 1994

Organisational sociology as a consulting tool

 

I would like to talk to you today more about what we have done and continue to do at Air France, than about generalities of the consultant-client relation, which I will nevertheless touch upon here and there. The first point I would like to make is that almost everyone has somethng or other to say about air transport. The press plays an active role in the intervening process and can somewhat threaten the link between a consultant and his client: this is what actually happened with a recent article in Expansion magazine, which was written in particularly blunt terms and strongly interfered with our relationship.

 

Firstly, it is important to remeber that we are consultants, even though we are esentially a group of organisational sociologists and most of us have been trained in the Crozier school of thought. At one point we wagered that organisational sociology (to be precise, the strategic analysis of organisations) could be used as a consulting tool. We have kept to this particular niche by deciding to market organisational sociology as a specific consulting tool. It turned out that consultancy from the « front-line » position of an consulting firm is rather different in practice from the previous experiences I had as a researcher within the CNRS.

[…]

 

The call from Christian Blanc

 

As far as our current work with Air France is concerned, I should first point out that we were consulted right from the start, or in other words, when Christian Blanc arrived. In fact, he asked me to come and discuss issues with him during his very first days with the company. We had already had previous contact with him since we worked together at the RATP, but our knowledge of the air transport business was appalling. Bear in mind that it is a very well-known field with a number of major specialists. Firstly, one finds specialists in airline strategy, since deregulation has led to a redefinition of strategy, in terms of local markets, foreign markets, joint ventures with order airlines, and so on. Secondly, there are also some major specialists in route economy or « yield management » as it is called (the study of the turn-around times and passenger numbers which yield profits). This particular field has been intensely studied, notably at MIT, and much work is being done on theoretical models, particularly by mathematicians.

[…]

 

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