Organizational Resource Management
Posted: 1/15/2016
by Christine Hill
Does the term Organizational Resource Management (ORM) sound familiar?  If so, it is probably because of your awareness of Crew Resource Management (CRM) or Maintenance Resource Management (MRM), the well accepted approach to understanding and improving safety in the aviation industry.  In fact, ORM is an extension of CRM concepts, and a term we use at SEI to describe our approach to helping leaders successfully manage aviation companies.  To define ORM it is best to start with the accepted meaning of CRM: A management system that makes optimum use of all available resources – equipment, procedures and people – to promote safety and enhance the efficiency of flight operations.

ORM Defined

As the shift to the word Organizational implies, ORM is an approach to guiding the entire entity to success.  Some slight, but significant, modifications derive a basic definition of ORM as: A management system that makes optimum use of all available resources – equipment, procedures and people – to achieve organizational goals and enhance the efficiency and value of operations.

Like CRM, ORM focuses on the cognitive and interpersonal skills rather than technical skills and knowledge.  It encompasses a wide range of human behaviors and attitudes that include culture & values, strategy & goals, communication, team-work, decision making, problem solving and service. Importantly, ORM starts with leadership.  If effective ORM practices are in place, effective CRM is sure to follow.

Culture and Values

What are the organizational culture and the underlying values that define your company?  Not necessarily what hangs on the wall in the lobby, or what you personally believe, but what the company really stands for in the view of employees and customers.  In other words, what do you ‘broadcast’ as important to your company?  The answer may or may not be explicitly stated, but it is implicit in the behaviors of the leadership and demonstrated by what gets recognized and rewarded throughout the company.

Strategy and Goals

With culture and values in place, you are in a position to develop your central strategy.  A clear strategy is essential to defining what the organization is all about.  Why are we in business?  What do we offer our customer that is unique?  What are our strengths and weaknesses?  What are we capable of?  How do we define success?  These are some of the questions that must be part of the strategy discussion.  The strategy need not be complex; in fact, the simpler the better.  It should be compelling and, most importantly, familiar to and clearly understood by everyone in the organization.

A solid central strategy must be well executed and monitored if it is to succeed.  This requires the establishment of organizational goals. At their best, visionary goals provide the path to achieving the overarching strategy.  Properly developed they can guide and even motivate people to realize the strategic vision.  To do this, goals must strike a balance between a number of things – aggressive and realistic, long term and short term, individual and team based.  Most importantly, the goals must be shared.  This can only be accomplished by including all levels of the organization in the goal setting process.

Teamwork and Communication

People must work together if organizational goals are to be met, but leaders know that this is much easier said than done.  True team work is achieved when the result produced by the group is greater than the sum of what is accomplished by the individual contributors working in isolation.  This only happens when goals, roles and responsibilities are well understood.  And it requires empowerment in an environment of trust, respect and shared information–communication.

Problem Solving and Decisions

Much of daily business activity is devoted to problem solving at all levels.  That includes providing solutions for a customer’s problem or need, or solving internal issues that stand between you and your goals. Arriving at the right solution, quickly, requires a shared framework for defining, measuring, analyzing, implementing and controlling the process.  It need not be complex, but for larger organizations, databases and systems support are often needed tools.

Service

Customer service is a cornerstone for competiveness and a primary differentiator in any given market.  Most everyone seems to know this, but few ever truly use it their maximum advantage.  That’s because the challenges of providing excellent customer service are formidable.  One major challenge is that various people and organizations define service differently.  Another, perhaps greater challenge is that many businesses think they know what customer service is and that they are doing a good job of delivering it.  They are often surprised to discover that they do not, and are not, because it is much more complex than they realized.In fact, customer service is a culture.  A culture takes time to build, and the right tools are needed.  A service culture does not occur after a one-day seminar. A service culture requires an individual and an organizational commitment to concepts, and a process that must be sustained over time. Serving others effectively is an ongoing effort; it is not a destination, but a journey.

Conclusion

The concepts of ORM are similar to, and an extension of, CRM.  They focus on cognitive and interpersonal skills, rather than simply technical knowledge.  And, they are applied much more comprehensively to overall organizational issues rather than to safety only.  ServiceElements uses ORM to assist leadership in understanding the issues, solving problems and making good decisions.  Most significantly, the tenets of ORM enable the creation of positive working relationships based upon service, core values, common goals and shared information.  The outcome is consistent high performance and sustainable results.