Uploaded by Fernando

British Airways Case Study

Aroncillo Jr., Fernando A.
Knowledge Management
Cardeño, Michelle Ann C.
ABCM 2-1
a change management tool to help identify why change is difficult and why some changes
succeed while others are unsuccessful. The name ADKAR is an acronym that is based on five
building blocks that bring about successful change. The letters stand for Awareness, Desire,
Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. It is mainly intended to be a coaching tool to help and
assist employees through the change process within organizations.
Awareness- Awareness of the need to change
In 1980 a survey by the International Airline Passengers‟ Association put BA at the top
of a list of airlines to be avoided at all costs.
In Marshall’s presence all of the symbols of the 'new culture' were expected to be in
Collin Marshall himself would introduce himself to front line staff and passengers and
discuss their experience of BA.
Desire- Desire to support and take part in the change
Lapel badges inscribed with the motto "We're putting people first" provided a visible
reminder of the course's message. Having these badges worn during the training even to
the actual service, helps them to be reminded or aware of the change that is happening.
Knowledge- Knowledge of the change
The CEO attended 95 per cent of all the PPF courses that ran, setting out his vision for
BA and participating in question and answer sessions with staff.
Ability- Ability to Implement the change
Focusing on shaping its staff emotions, one of the training and the most dramatic was
the love bath exercise.
In March 1996, BA became the first company to make daily TV broadcasts to its staff
where giving information or instructions are shown or done
Reinforcement- Reinforcement to sustain the change
Awards for Excellence and an Employee Brainwaves programme encouraged staff input.
Managerial bonuses could be as much as 20 percent of salary and were calculated on a
straight 50:50 split between exhibiting desired behaviours and achieving quantitative
THE NEED OF CHANGE (Why BA needed cultural/structural change?)
The organization was reporting losses year after year due to poor market perception as
a result of bad organization image.
The company needed change to improve its financial strength apart from convincing the
workforce about the significance of customer service to ensure good market perception.
BA wanted to come up with a strategy that will ensure maintenance of momentum as
well as recapturing the focus that will enable the company to deal with different
challenges it was facing like the 1981 crisis
At the end of the 1970s and the start of the 1980s BA was performing disastrously
against almost every indicator. An old fleet made for uncomfortable journeys and
contributed significantly to the airline‟s record for unpunctuality (Corke, 1986); its
productivity was considerably below that of its main overseas competitors (Warhurst,
1995); it was beset by industrial disputes; and it was recording substantial financial
losses (£140 million or some £200 a minute in 1981). It seemed that staff discontent was
more than matched by customer dissatisfaction and in 1980 a survey by the International
Airline Passengers‟ Association put BA at the top of a list of airlines to be avoided at all
costs (Blyton and Turnbull, 1998).
The company was undertaking cultural changes because the British government had
announced the plan of privatizing through sale of shares.
Problems of high operational costs due to increased fuel costs and large number of
employees due to poor market prediction.
Customer service was also suffering
THE PROCESS OF CHANGE ( Strategies/Programmes used or implemented)
Putting People First (1983) –It was aligned to the culture change towards the externally
driven company, consisting in the mandatory attendance to all staff members of the BA
worldwide. The CEO, Colin Marshall, was present in more than 9 in 10 of those events,
aiming to describe his vision of the new company structure to the staff.
Managing People First (1984-1990)– It was a five program developed for the training of
all managers worldwide in the executive levels, in terms of the leadership organizational
behavior. The managers reviewed their careers and were encouraged to develop acting
lines to adapt their behavior in the new cultural approach.
A Day In The Life (1984) – BA had a rigid management style, where hierarchy was one
of the core values. The Day in the Life program was a one day training which were
mandatory to all the staff worldwide, aiming to improve the communications among the
sectors, by familiarizing the staff with other departments. The objective was to create
empathy towards the others employees and customers in general, by the accountability
of the staff.
Customer Service Leadership Programs (1988-1989) – Creation of a brand through the
five class services,aiming to attend the customer's demand through extensive market
research. The program was developed in 5 days, destined to the ground management
staff which added value to the customer, to all ground managers worldwide.
Winning For Customers (1990) – It was a one day program destined to all the staff to
reiterate the cultural shift towards customer satisfaction, using computer-based
simulations of different customer consumption behaviors (British Airways Report, 2010).
Based on our understanding Collin Marshall initiated the change. As he said, "We have
to 'design' our people and their service attitude just as we 9 design an aircraft seat, an
in-flight entertainment programme or an airport lounge to meet the needs and
preferences of our customers" . That’s the reason why he started the first training
program named Putting People First in 1983 fresh from being appointed by King as the
new CEO. Employees were encouraged to take a more positive attitude to themselves,
taught how to set personal goals and cope with stress, instructed in confidence building ,
and getting what they wanted out of life. Hoping that it would reflect positively on how
they work within the organization.
Because there was stiff competition and higher operating costs it impeded cultural
change in the organization. The company experienced a drift towards higher salary
rates. Another challenge as a result of change in British Airways was balancing cost
reduction and customer service delivery.
Colin Marshall’s emphasis on putting people first and caring for one another had been
preceded by a rule of fear. Such substantive change certainly seems to justify the
plaudits heaped on it. But, as an account, it suffers from a number of flaws. Most
significantly, as Anthony (1994) notes, together with other presentations of culture
change it neglects structure.BA’s first response to its problems had been a massive
series of redundancies, the largest in British history at the time, with staff numbers
reduced by 40 per cent between 1981 and 1983. Senior staff were not exempt from this
13 process, with 161 being removed overnight on one memorable occasion in 1983.
Employees and other individuals feel that their powers and privileges are being
threatened by change. Identifying the areas of resistance, addressing fears and issues
of their origin is very critical. In case this is not resolved then resistance has the ability to
affect true change within the company.
BA turnaround is attributed to structural factors, but also the extent of the company‟s
cultural transformation itself is open to question. There is little doubt that, in theory,
cultural change interventions are both manipulative and totalitarian seeking as they do
influence and control over the thoughts, values, attitudes and norms of others.
Employees are not cultural dupes.
The (Transport and General Workers' Union) TGWU threatened strike action.In early
1997 BA attempted to change the structure of payments to cabin crew. It was proposed
that the existing employees would be bought out of their series of allowances (petrol,
overnight stay etc) by receiving a higher basic wage. BA offered a three year guarantee
that no crew member would earn less under the new system but nothing beyond that
and it was clear to cabin crew staff that the measure was launched with the explicit aim
of saving money
Despite fourteen years of “indoctrination” into caring for one another and putting people
first, the tactics deployed by BA’s management were described by two such different
sources as the TUC and The Economist as bullying.