Human Resource Management and Strategic Decision-Making Research Proposal

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Resource Management and Strategic Decision Making in the Aviation Industry Today

The same innovations in technology that have fueled the globalized of the marketplace have been particularly influential in the aviation industry. Indeed, the impact of automated computer-based applications and systems has fundamentally transformed the manner in which aircraft are designed and manufactured, as well as how they are maintained and operated. In this dynamic environment, identifying how resource management and strategic decision making processes are being used in the aviation industry today represents a timely and valuable enterprise. To this end, this paper provides an overview of the aviation industry in general and how innovations in technology have affected resource management and strategic decision making practices in particular. A summary of the research and important findings are provided in the conclusion.

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TOPIC: Research Proposal on Human Resource Management and Strategic Decision-Making Assignment

The lessons currently being learned on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq have clearly demonstrated the need for improved integration of technology and humans in more seamless ways. Likewise, skyrocketing energy prices have forced both the civilian and aviation sectors to reexamine their resource management techniques to squeeze every cent of value out of their operations while maintaining acceptable levels of customer service. While the civilian sector was horsewhipped by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and remains constrained by rising energy costs today, the military sector has benefited from their extensive combat experiences that have contributed to the growing body of research into what works and what does not in these tactical situations. Although technology can go a long way in helping reduce the demands on human personnel in the aviation industry, the day when computers and robots are able to replace people in many capacities in either the civilian or military sector remains in the distant future. As Goodman (2000) emphasizes, "The aviation industry, despite its great technological advances, remains a service industry, and is labor-intensive. There is no changing the fact that they [airlines] are in a service business where customers require, and often demand, a lot of personal attention. More than one-third of the revenue generated each day by the airlines goes to pay its workforce" (p. 34). The military has not escaped the enormous costs of oil either, and it is reasonable to assume that taxpayers and policymakers alike will demand improved approaches to the management of resources that are, by definition, scarce and these issues are discussed further below.

Resource Management Issues.

Invocation of automation is a so-called "fuzzy logic" function that is familiar to anyone who has used cruise control on their automobile or played one of the "Sims" permutations and used status bars to monitor health and other needs. In this regard, Shermer (2002) uses the color of the sky as an example of fuzzy logic in action: "Aristotelian logic demands that it must be either blue or nonblue, but not both. Yet the sky cannot properly be characterized as either-or. By fuzzy logic reasoning, depending on the time of day and the patch of sky to be evaluated, a fuzzy fraction is a more accurate description" (p. 16). These same concepts can be readily applied to a number of automated functions in both the civilian and military sectors, with the military sector leading the way in many areas. In fact, many of these automated approaches to resource management identified by the military have introduced efficiencies that were not possible even a few years ago. Not surprisingly, the aviation industry has applied these techniques wherever possible to improve system and personnel performance. In his text, Handbook of Cognitive Task Design, Hollnagel (2003) notes that, "There are some systems in which the computer may initiate invocation of automation. One such example is the automatic ground collision avoidance system for combat aircraft. When a collision against the terrain is anticipated, the computer gives a 'pull up' warning. If the pilot takes a collision avoidance maneuver aggressively, then the computer does not step in any further" (p. 158). In those cases where military pilots do not respond to the computer warning in these fast-changing combat situations, the computer assumes control from the human pilot and executes an automatic collision avoidance action (Hollnagel). This author also reports the results of a study that investigated the efficiency of aviation industry personnel in performing in multitasked environments and determined that the subjects' performances in resource management tasks were more efficient when automation invocation was initiated by humans (Hollnagel).

Other researchers (Harris, Goernert, Hancock, and Arthur, 1994) compared human-initiated and computer-initiated invocation strategies and determined that human-initiated invocation of automation might be less beneficial than computer-initiated invocation when changes in the workload could be abrupt or unexpected for the human operator. Likewise, when subjects became fatigued under a multiple-task environment, they were less likely to engage automation even when it was supposed to be used, which means that the benefits of automation may not be fully appreciated if human-initiated invocation of automation is adopted (Hollnagel, 2003). As a result, the foregoing suggests that to extent to which resources are allocated for research into these and other automated systems being developed for the aviation industry will be the extent to which the strategic decision making process identifies these issues as worthwhile goals and takes the steps needed today to ensure their availability in the future, and these issues are discussed further below.

Strategic Decision Making Issues.

Strategic decision making in the Age of Information can be a challenged enterprise. Because Moore's Law continues to hold true, planning for improvements in technology today requires a careful examination of when these systems might become available and what levels of processing speed will be available to accommodate them at that point in time. All organizations use some type of system to accomplish their respective goals, and most typically use two fundamental types of decision making in the process: (a) strategic, and (b) tactical; moreover, the level of centralization involved in these two types of decision making will vary significantly from organization to organization (Hendrick & Kleiner, 2002). According to these authors, "Tactical decision making has to do with the day-to-day operation of the organization's business; strategic decision making concerns broader policy and long-range planning for the organization. When the sociotechnical characteristics of the organization call for low formalization and high professionalism, tactical decision making may be highly decentralized, whereas strategic decision making may remain highly centralized" (Hendrick & Kleiner, p. 13). In such settings, the decision-making process may still remain relatively decentralized because the information needed for effective strategic decision making is frequently controlled and distilled by gatekeepers such as middle management or even lower-level personnel that will have their own personal and professional agendas (Hendrick & Kleiner). As a result, to the degree that these gatekeeper selectively constrain, restrict or otherwise alter information that is provided to top management is likely the degree to which the actual degree of centralization of strategic decision making is diminished (Hendrick & Kleiner).

In recent years, a number of important influences on strategic decision making have been introduced that have resulted in an enormous impact on the aviation industry in particular. Two types of technological innovations have had major implications for work system design in these settings: (a) advanced information technologies (AIT) and (b) computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) (Hendrick & Kleiner, 2002). These innovations have provided top management and lower-level personnel with the opportunity to participate in the strategic decision making process by making the flow of information more seamless and accessible by those who need it. In this regard, Hendrick and Kleiner report, "AIT tends to facilitate decentralizing operational or tactical decision making while enhancing the efficiency of centralized strategic decision making. AIT enhances the efficiency of decentralization and greater professionalism. Because lower-level employees often select and filter the information and structure the databases, AIT also… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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