As temperatures in the region continue to rise, Ager’s team is needing to pivot its operations, focusing both on runway maintenance as well as upgrading the planes themselves, which were originally procured in the 1990s, to ensure that they can keep the air bridge open safely. Whether aircraft are required to land on ice or gravel, safety is still the ultimate goal.
Ager began his career in the Royal Air Force. Leaving six years ago after three decades of service, he spent considerable time in project management, looking after two portfolios of projects carrying around £28bn of through-life cost value. His experience in overseeing such programmes earned him his current role. And given the longevity of the work that is being carried out and the number of stakeholders and moving parts involved, he says it is crucial to have the end goal clear in mind—and to keep it clear in your mind as you make key decisions.
It is easier said than done though. The BAS needs to factor in decades worth of scientific research before it makes any infrastructure decisions. If they want to install a wind turbine as part of its carbon emissions reduction plans, they must consider whether it will create unintended consequences on local wildlife.
“We may need to relocate a building, or a project, but first we must understand the science that’s involved. There’s long-term data that is being collected over the course of many years; a turbine or a move may interfere with those results.
“It’s incredible that there are so many variables in this joint venture.”
On projects with several stakeholders, it can be easy for a cacophony of noise to cloud judgement and decision making. For leaders, it can be even more difficult to keep the noise away from the team on the ground, disrupting workflows with unnecessary input. Ager answers to both the BAS and the NERC, meaning his role requires an intricate understanding of the objectives of each organisation.
“It’s important to keep on engaging,” says Ager. “Particularly at the early stages of a project, follow the GOAT technique: go out and talk. You can never engage enough.
“But for your team, you must understand your role within that. These inputs need to be decoded carefully so that they are unambiguous, and they can continue without further interference.”
This level of engagement early on allows a culture of clarity and understanding to bleed through an organisation.
And that is exactly what Ager instils throughout his running of the modernisation programme. While he can speak at length about the intricacies of upgrading a runway or a new building, he also understands the underlying culture that he is building on; keeping the organisation’s overall objective at heart, not allowing deviations to side-track or complicate decision making. Planning so meticulously that you can predict problems before they happen, and so that flexibility can be baked in. Understanding that while some parts of your strategy are technically fine, planned obsolescence can be a good thing.
With workplace leaders set on finessing their workplace futures for entire workforces, there are so many factors at play which could cause rippling effects for years to come; one of those factors being the refusal to change at all. Knowing when to start on a fresh page, like Jonathan Ager, could be a critical conclusion to come to.