Is it possible for a company operating within an insular context, such as the Cape Verde Islands, to compete successfully on an international level? Furthermore, is it possible to conciliate a business profit maximization approach with a social intervention perspective in a less developed economy? The success case of “ASA – Aeroportos e Segurança Aérea” (Cape Verde’s Airports and Air Navigation Company) enables these questions to be answered in a positive way. Yes, it is possible through strategic, organizational and operational alignment within an environment that promotes the enhancement of human resources, high standards and accountability for performance.
1. Complex challenges
“ASA – Aeroportos e Segurança Aérea”, the company responsible for the management of airport infrastructure and air navigation services in Cape Verde, faces a number of complex challenges.
Firstly, the company must be able to respond to the needs of the insular context in which it operates. ASA has a total of 500 employees geographically distributed over eight of the archipelago’s nine islands. It is responsible for the management of one traffic control centre (Oceanic Control Centre, located in the Island of Sal), three airports (Sal, Praia and S. Vicente) and five aerodromes (Boavista, Fogo, S. Nicolau and Maio).
Secondly, ASA is inserted within an increasingly competitive international environment, namely in relation to the Tenerife and Dakar airports.
Lastly, the company must assume its key role in promoting the country’s cohesion and development, namely by making a significant contribution to the development of the tourism industry and by helping Cape Verde to strengthen its position as a sea hub, serving as an entry point into Africa and a support platform to some sea routes between Europe and South America .
For Jorge Cravo, manager at the Lisbon Office, “an important conclusion to be drawn from the ASA case is the safe value for continuously seeking strategic, organizational and operational alignment, while committing to people and being able to meet the highest international and business excellence standards”.
2. Performance Strategy
These challenges contribute to raise the company’s management standards, having led ASA to establish a performance strategy focused on four key aspects that guide the company’s daily operations and support the process of decision-making, namely:
- reinforcement of investment, to increase the capacity of the existing airports and aerodromes for handling international and domestic flights, contributing to the country’s economic development while reducing insularity;
- development of non-air revenues, according to a logic of diversification and full use of investment, leveraging the company’s performance and gaining competitive edge vis-a-vis its competitors;
- Focus on partnerships, taking full advantage of consolidated know-how on the optimization of key business aspects;
- strategic, organizational and operational alignment and enhancement of human resources.
New major business challenges are posed to ASA, as a result of the efforts made for the modernization of airport infrastructure, namely the construction of the new airports at Praia (inaugurated in 2006), Boavista (to be inaugurated during 2007) and São Vicente (also expected to be completed in 2007), as well as the creation of the Oceanic Control Centre of Sal.
The company has been placing a strong emphasis on strategic, organizational and operational alignment as well as on the enhancement of human resources while simultaneously improving the strategic management tools through a management indicators model and a Business Intelligence System. In this way, ASA has managed to consolidate a culture of continuous innovation and development that promotes accountability and orientation towards results. While remaining committed to its cultural matrix and core values, ASA consolidated its position as a leading company within the context of the Cape Verdean economy.
In November 2005, ASA launched a revitalization programme that included the company’s organizational restructuring and the definition of a support system for global business monitoring. This has enabled an effective control over the activities undertaken in each of the islands as well as in all infrastructures managed by ASA, also allowing for the necessary changes to be made in the status quo, and improving the capacity to respond to new challenges.
Rather than a mere organic change, this process involved the development of new competences. To this end, it was necessary to reformulate the company’s functioning logic, favouring value-generating activities, optimizing internal relationships among geographically distant areas, clarifying top managers as well as improving their respective mechanisms to control and measure the efficiency of those activities.
All improvement and innovation related aspects were addressed in line with best international best practice, and systematic follow-up on progress achieved in this sector.
The outcomes of such processes can only be assessed in the medium to long term. However, in the specific case of ASA, significant changes are already visible in terms of business performance. It is also clear that there is stronger involvement and accountability of leaders regarding decision making.
Furthermore, the designed business intelligence system enables ASA executives a timely access to key performance indicators.
3. Strategic and Operational Alignment
There are four critical success factors regarding the approach adopted by ASA to respond to major challenges, namely:
- continuous strategic and operational alignment with the vision of all shareholders achieved through decision-making processes and supported by critical questions regarding the company’s business activity, such as:
- which is the impact on the company’s results?
- which is the impact on the community?
- which is the impact on the company’s staff members and their internal articulation?
- incorporation of the intricacies of each island into the decision-making process (for example, existing limitations in terms of the access to sufficient bandwidth for the information system to work conveniently).
- clear definition of internal communication channels and the relationship and reporting model to be adopted among the various organizational structures: Who interacts with whom? In what way? How frequently?
- commitment from all staff members, particularly from top managers, throughout all phases of the process, namely:
- i) design;
- ii) launch and dissemination, and
- iii) implementation follow-up.