Guardian Air: Planning a Decision Process for Helicopter Engines
Facing operational constraints due to helicopter engines with sub-optimal power during hot weather at high altitudes, the program manager for an air-ambulance operator must plan for a decision process to consider upgrading the engines of any, many, or all of his program's seven helicopters. Long before putting the decision before his parent company's executives or board of directors, he needs to develop lists of relevant quantitative variables and what's known about them, qualitative factors and considerations, and stakeholders and their interests, all in order to methodically structure a process to better advance conversations with his colleagues toward a more efficient and effective outcome. Presented as a qualitative task of decision preparation, this case focuses on the early steps of rational decision-making processes, such as "define the problem" and "identify the criteria," without going further toward a decision recommendation. Intended for the first weeks of managerial-decision making courses, the case distinguishes the value of comprehensively considering the set-up of complex decision processes as pre-requisite to subsequent steps. Especially for students who see "making a decision" as actions taken with calculators and spreadsheets, this case is intended to demonstrate the value of prior steps in decision processes that include complexity, uncertainty, and colleagues who must be "on the same page" along the way. Further, the vivid overlap of the healthcare industry with aviation operations is intended to heighten student interest, with contextual information on how the medical-transport industry operates.