Executive Insights – Interview with Ben Swann, L3 Harris Commercial Aviation
Ben is the VP for Engineering & Programs for L3 Harris Commercial Aviation based in Crawley, UK. In this role he leads the training systems team, which is responsible for not only the design, development, manufacture support of airline training devices but also its own airline training operation.
What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?
As with nearly all organisations, this year has proved very challenging due to the effects of COVID. We have spent much of the year working with our customers, suppliers and employees as we have adapted to the new business operating conditions to allow the business to continue while guarding the safety of all.
As a business area we export over 90% of our products and services overseas. Whereas in the past we relied on the free movement of goods and people, the restriction has encouraged us to adapt to how we deliver and how we work with our customers in different territories.
Last week was no exception with our staff undertaking work in three different continents in the safest way that we can.
Innovation has always been key to L3Harris’ success, how has this continued in these challenging times?
In general, people are looking for cheaper airline tickets, cheaper holidays, cheaper travel and the aviation market followed these principles into its own supply chain in order to realise what the consumer wants.
This trend will continue as the industry recovers from the pandemic. As a result, we have relied on innovation to help improve our products and services and ultimately improve our proposition to our customers. Innovation is not just technology innovation and in fact we really focus on a lean culture to continuously find as much opportunity as we can.
What have you learnt about your business as a result of the current pandemic? Where were you resilient and where were you vulnerable and why?
We adapted quickly and shifted the majority of the organisation to working from home, this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. We have been able to implement safe control measures in our production facility to allow operations to continue throughout the period.
I would say that the intensity of work has increased significantly mainly because our ability to connect with people has increased. Whereas in the past, you would have been visible in an office and interacting with people on a person to person basis, this meant that your sole focus would have been on that interaction. The risks of working virtual is that you can be in receipt of information through multiple channels in parallel. Whereas this offers perceived productivity improvement it also dilutes your focus.
The mini-breaks or conversation evaporated due to everyone trying to maximise their time. Putting new guidelines and expectations throughout our teams and also structuring “unplanned time” works to ensure we are connecting not just on specific goals but trying to replicate the kitchen moments or impromptu conversations which offer so much value outside standard reporting procedures.
Individuals have been affected in a variety of ways. Some have embraced and really welcomed the shift to working this way and others have struggled. We don’t have a one fit model and have worked to accommodate individuals’ circumstances to overcome the challenges the pandemic has created.
Nothing is possible without a strong team, how have your people responded?
There is no doubt that this has been a hard year as we have had to undertake significant change both inside and outside of our working lives. The team right across L3Harris has proved themselves to be resilient, adaptable and, most importantly, positive. It has been very rewarding to be a part of.
We have adopted our experience of change management to maximise our communication to our employees. We have run daily managers briefings since March 2020 to ensure we are connected. We solicit feedback and the managers said they responded well to this daily routine, so they don’t lose their own connectivity to their colleagues outside of their direct teams.
We are consistent with our vision of creating an integrated operating model to generate continued competitive advantage. While creating dramatic challenges, the pandemic has also encouraged us to move faster and further along this journey.
Who or what has inspired you this week?
We have been developing new product capability and I have been inspired by the team who are focused on that this week. They have implemented lessons learned from the past and overcome challenges to adopt new approaches across teams in multiple countries.
What is the most significant milestone for your business next year?
We have many milestones to deliver next year. Our focus is on delivering our customer commitments and realising a number of development and change programs. I am excited about next year as the industry starts the recovery from the effects of the pandemic.
Ben is the VP for Engineering & Programs for L3 Harris Commercial Aviation based in Crawley, UK. In this role he leads the training systems team, which is responsible for not only the design, development, manufacture support of airline training devices but also its own airline training operation. The team is predominantly spread between the UK and USA with globally based staff to support its international footprint.
Ben is married with two children and two dogs and in his spare time if not walking the dogs or ferrying children around he is contributing to the local community with active governance role for non-profit organisation.