BA must lead from the top to end the disputes

of the problem of repeated disputes could stem from a lack of strongly
articulated people policies at the point of privatisation, or during its
immediate aftermath. However, rather than enter into a historical journey,
there is a need to concentrate on the here and now.

Airways (BA) still claims to be the world’s favourite airline. But the
continual disputes, staff-related problems and ensuing chaos – not to mention
the effect upon those directly caught up in it – will continue to have a debilitating
effect on its business strategy, which is aligned to growth, profit improvement
and cost reduction.

give any modicum of success when restructuring an organisation, reducing costs
and negotiating with trade unions, there must be a common purposeful approach
by management, staff and unions.

with all organisations that are mandated to cut costs and boost performance
while losing some 25 per cent plus of its workforce, there is an overriding
need to develop strong working relationships between management, staff, trade
unions and representative bodies, and the introduction of a common mindset to
drive businesses forward.

difficulty for any organisation taking such draconian measures is that each
group of stakeholders takes a position and digs in:

Shareholders want cost-cutting and a return to profitability/dividends

Management must do whatever is necessary to get the results

Staff become demotivated with the heavy loss
of jobs and the perceived lack of long-term security within the organisation.
They become ultra defensive, with telltale signs such as high absenteeism and

Trade unions take a defensive position on behalf of their members, with strong
traditional negotiating tactics.

such circumstances, there is a need to review all aspects of the business
strategy and re-align the people strategies with the future needs of the
organisation on an all inclusive basis with every stakeholder group.

from the top must be strong and focused. BA’s chief executive Rod Eddington has an excellent
pedigree, which must be replicated throughout – from the directors to the
supervisors. Staff must be openly communicated with, and their views –
particularly on customer-focused operational matters – must be taken into

unions need to be invited to the table to consider plans, and the analysis of
risks in terms of the longevity of the business and its members.

process of change involving such major cutbacks is painful, but one borne out
of a nationalised enterprise, which during 20 years of privatisation has seen a
constant stream of cost-cutting initiatives, is even more so.

the change process back on track is critical to BA’s success – particularly
bearing in mind its corporate target of £300m savings by March 2006, and the
improvements to performance and productivity required.

the overall change process is the need to effectively manage the day-to-day
operations, and achieve or surpass customer expectations. This in itself
demands the highest levels of management, support service expertise, and
stakeholder co-operation.  

By Stephen Hall, director, Stephen Hall
& Associates

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