Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 10/31/11

October 31, 2011—Issue #110

This week’s focus point: I’ve never seen a company or institution with unhappy employees and happy customers. Employees are assets, not expenses, yet many executives think they should be investing in equipment maintenance but not people maintenance. Among the worst offenders are banks, newspapers, and airlines. Apparently, Qantas would rather close its operation, ground its fleet, and inconvenience tens of thousands of customers than try to resolve its people issues. TWA, Eastern, and others were all driven out of business by horrible management-labor relationships. Neither unions nor management are always right or always wrong, but when you decide to take your ball and leave the playground you are a child, not an adult.

Monday Morning Perspective: He can board and carry an enemy frigate with guns roaring and drums beating in a couple of minutes; but that is no way to give a girl much pleasure. — Diane Villiers describing Jack Aubrey in “The Yellow Admiral,” one of Patrick O’Brian’s series of naval novels.

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© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved

I remember a meeting with a boutique consulting firm that had fallen on hard times. The debate was whether or not to sell their magnificent conference table. “Where would clients sit?” asked one partner. “We have no clients,” stated the advocate of selling. You can’t cut your way to renewal or success. Top line growth is the key to bottom line achievement, for you and for your clients. Today is the time to invest in the future. Once you cut muscle, you’re powerless.

4 thoughts on “Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 10/31/11

  1. Hi Alan.

    FYI: my understanding is that the airline was grounded because of the potential air safety issues.

    Where pilots have the potential to be distracted and put passenger safety at risk, then they ought not be flying. As the whole union was involved, then the potential risk across the entire airline was massive.

    Check this video out:

    So, I’m with Qantas management on this one. I’ve watched too much of Air Crash Investigations to see that the slightest errors when combined can have devastating outcomes. What the unions are doing is a disgrace.

    I think I’d rather be on the ground in 1 piece rather than scattered across a paddock in a thousand.

    I’d rather be late to get going than dead on time.

  2. Yes, well who wouldn’t agree, but that’s an extreme case because you’re taking the side of management. My point is that enlightened management doesn’t let it get to this point. And safety was no more endangered than during the prior month when job actions were going on. Management ruined the plans of people going to funerals, weddings, key job meetings, long-planned vacations, and so on, just to force government intervention. As usual, let’s make the customers the victims, because what choice to they have.

    The union may be disgraceful, I don’t know, but the evidence is very clear that Qantas management—as so much of airline management—in inept. They feel they must have an adversarial relationship with labor rather than a collaborative one.

  3. Speaking as an Aussie and local to the aviation commentator on the segment Michael mentions, I think the CEO was way off the mark on this (I wrote an article to this effect for my newsletter audience). Qantas pilots are highly professional and extremely well trained and the kind of incident that the commentator mentions (where, almost 40 years ago, a pilot had an intense argument/row with his own colleagues prior to takeoff and had medical problems as a result) is an extreme and isolated case. Grounding all flights because of this potential was not on the mind of CEO Alan Joyce. Joyce was trying to make a point, not prevent safety problems – otherwise, why would the Australian government then force both parties to resume flights and cease industrial action? Is the government then endangering people? Because there would certainly be a whole lot of stress immediately following these events.

    No, this was an epic management and leadership failure, plain and simple. Joyce ended up treating every employee as a problem to be punished, like the school classroom where everybody has to stay in because a couple of people are acting up – and the customers were punished too. There was no plan to resolve issues, no plan to win people over, no plan to identify those who would work together for the company’s success, no plan to aid customers, no plan to work with unions and employees after the fact other than seeking government assistance to force a resolution, no plan to help recover reputation after such a globally dramatic action, no plan…

  4. I can’t see any justification for a desperate and unprofessional action like this. Nor do I see anyone calling for his removal, at least from this distance. Qantas has an awful public image, going back for years. The fact that they may be profitable is not really the point—the Mafia is profitable.

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