The Southwest Airlines Way by Jody Gittell

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Southwest Airlines stands out compared to other companies in the airline industry. It has been profitable every year since it was founded and it is said to be due to its superior employee care. It has been consistently part of Fortune's “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” A few other reasons Southwest has improved and stayed above the rest is for its planning and ideology. In order to lessen the amount of training of employees and maintenance work, Southwest only uses one style of plane. 

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Concerning business in general, efficiency and effectiveness are vital to increased profits, and customer and employee satisfaction. The training for airplanes is expensive, from the repairs to flight. Keeping it “simple” is a large factor in the efficiency and effectiveness of Southwest as a whole. The employees become specialized and therefore very experienced with what they are working with. 

This is most likely a part of the reason it is high on the “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” list. The simple style is also factored into the locations. Southwest uses airports that are less congested and does away with the meal service and seating assignments to decrease delays and “turn around time” from landing to re-takeoff. Another factor that sets Southwest apart is its job flexibility and employee care. Southwest believes in fluid roles, they promote “crossing functional boundaries” in order to allow an employee in one department to assist one from another department.

While other airlines can try to copy the Southwest Airlines Way, they are missing a few key points that are in the rooted fundamentals of Southwest. Most importantly, they excel at communications. Frequent, timely, and problem-solving communication are the big three techniques used by Southwest Airlines. These techniques enforce the positive work environment it is known for. Communication leads to shared knowledge, goals, and mutual respect. These are important to any business, as having a shared goal motivates the employees as a whole and creates a tidal wave of power behind the main goal. A workforce that is not “on the same page” will have conflicting currents, leading to a less organized and consistent environment.

Southwest has ten practices for building high-performance relationships. First, leading with credibility and care. The managers and frontline employees interact with each other, and so do other departments within the company. A pilot stated about calling Herb to deal with a problem, “He’ll say ‘think about it and tell me the solution that you think will work.’ He has an open-door policy… He is one of the inspirations for this company… He’s unbelievable when it comes to personal etiquette. If you’ve got a problem, he cares.”

Herb is a prime example of many of the practices leading to a high-performance relationship. This is important to businesses because having a positive and respectful relationship with fellow employees leads to a more enjoyable work environment for both workers and customers. Southwest also believes that conflicts are an opportunity to build relationships. One example is how stress leads to conflict. Southwest deals with conflict by delegating the responsibility to managers and holding team-building meetings. 

President and Chief Operating Officer Colleen Barrett states, “Sometimes the problem is magnified by bringing them together, rather than resolved. But I think when that happens, the bottom line is that both don’t belong here”. Concerning business, knowing when to let employees go is important to keep the company mission in line. An employee who doesn’t support the goals of the company is not a profitable or helpful asset. 

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