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Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Self-stuffing Turkeys. New? No

BA cabin staff have announced that they will strike for 12 days over Christmas.

The public response has been overwhelmingly negative. The media is awash with puns on Turkeys and Christmas.

Is it that word “British”? Does this word in a company name cause its employees, like the tragic folk at the British Motor Corporation/British Leyland, to believe that they are entitled to unlimited public support and funding despite their employer being seriously uncompetitive and underperforming on every front?

30 years ago and nothing learned. BMC/BL and even its final incarnation Rover is long gone, and all its jobs with it.

BA has been at a very low level of Comparative Competitive Strength for far too long. Its management has shown few signs of understanding this, its shareholders and advisors certainly do not. So it is not too surprising that its cabin staff should be deluded too.

Over the last ten years BA has swanned along smug in the self belief of its own invulnerability and almost god given right to go on for ever whilst in fact sliding steadily down through the Comparative Competitive Strength level of Comfortable into now the lower levels of Constrained. The fact that 90% of the cabin staff have just demonstrated they do not understand how desperate the situation is reflects the poor quality of management and leadership. Mr Walsh’s dramatics have been too little and far too late to be believed, and too many of his management have remained in denial. It is no wonder communications have failed. Look again at BMC and then subsequent BL and Rover leaderships.

Are we about to witness the Longbridge tragedy all over again? Is BA off to join BMC in The Abyss? Is this perhaps a terrible insight into the psychology of large scale corporate failure? Is this yet another case where sheer size, market dominance and organisational inertia obscures the recognition of corporate death at the time of actual occurrence. The business appears to carry on but ultimately, much later, and as a “sudden surprise”, the sunlight hits the wrong bit and the whole zombified structure suddenly collapses in a heap of mouldy dust?

Might the more thoughtful BA cabin staff use this time away from work to find out what happened to the workers at BMC? Could they realise that there is no such thing as a Perpetual Money Machine, and team up with BALPA and other longer sighted employees to work together to win themselves the management leadership and business transformation that they all so desperately need? And get themselves a future?

This forthcoming tragedy is predictable and therefore potentially preventable. Indeed, as Louis Gerstner demonstrated at IBM, it might even be reversible. A key indicator is the Comparative Competitive Strength Report. If you would like to know more about this uniquely independent and objective assessment of the managerial and leadership potential competitive capability of an organisation, and the financial implications of that, please have a look at the introduction on our web site here.

Exceeding Expectations is brought to you by Steve Goodman and Tony Ericson. It is one of our "Excellence Quartet" of blogs promoting the cause of Excellence as the key to prosperity. Each blog has a new article each month using a recent business/financial topic to highlight different perspectives and conclusions from those obtained using conventional thinking and techniques. You can read the other three blogs are "You're having a laugh ... Seriously?",Business Bloop of the Month Award", "Capitalism or ... Common Sense" .