Dr Richard Plenty and Terri Morrissey provide their thoughts on: Sustaining high performance.


Being a high performing organisation at any given moment is great, but it counts for very little if that level of performance isn’t sustainable.

The world does not stand still. The bar is continuously being raised as competitive pressures, innovation, new technologies and stakeholder expectations combine to change perceptions of what is meant by excellence.

In airports, the speed of change has been dramatic. Over the last 20 years, competition has multiplied, ownership models have evolved and the industry has been forced to adopt a more commercial mindset. 

Information technology has helped to transform business processes. Passengers have become increasingly demanding.

The best airports strive to keep ahead of the curve. Nevertheless, success can have its price. How sustainable are the changes that have been made? 
Are people capable of continuing to deliver consistent high performance without burning out? And where does the enthusiasm for further change come from if things are going well?


Keep an open mindset

Airports striving to be high-performers can become very ‘task focused’ places, inward looking and with intense social, organisational and commercial pressures to show good results. But continuing high performance needs people who are driven to seek out the reality, however unpalatable. 

The best organisations share learning from both their triumphs and mistakes. They also invest time in looking outwards – looking at trends, building external networks and relationships, and learning from others. 


Manage work pressures

High performing organisations make tougher demands on their staff than their lower performing counterparts. Workloads are higher, there is more demand for flexibility and work-life balance can be more difficult to achieve. 

However, most people generally adapt and thrive on the challenge provided there is high quality leadership and sufficient investment in learning and development. If the changes are major, it may be necessary to bring in some new people. 


Lead change sensitively 

People are not machines. Imposing new processes and technology without taking into account the ‘people’ implications is rarely successful in the long run. The most successful organisations manage change in a culturally sensitive manner – and develop policies, systems and processes that allow for some flexibility. 

It’s important to optimise the socio-technical system, not just the technical, and think through clearly how best to involve and engage people.

Achieving success is difficult; sustaining it can be harder. It is a journey, not a destination.

About the authors

Terri Morrissey and Dr Richard Plenty are directors of This Is... They can be contacted at

Article originally published in Airport World Magazine December 11, 2014.

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Dr. Richard Plenty
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Terri Morrissey
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