Sunday, November 15, 2015

Jody Hoffer Gittell (2005): The Southwest Airlines Way

What is it about?

The book aims to describe the principles through which Southwest Airlines has gained and sustained competitive advantage in in the airline industry. The book begins (about the first 1/3) by outlining the core strategic principle, high asset utilisation (keeping the aircrafts flying, thereby generating revenue). This is followed (the rest of the book, about 2/3) by describing the organisational principles, one by one, which bring about this organisational capability.

Was it good?

Well, sort of. I enjoyed the first 1/3 or so where the core strategic posture of the company was outlined (high asset utilisation through quick plane turn-around), but the latter 2/3 was slightly too 'preaching' to my liking. I don't doubt the soundness of the organisational principles discussed (see those listed e.g. here), but the style with which those were discussed and argued for was ... well, I struggle to find words here. Perhaps it has to do with the 'do like this and these wonderful things will happen' kind of an argumentative style - or my perception of it being such. To the author's credit, the book closes with a discussion of the 10 principles having to constitute a consistent whole; no one principle carries one too far. 

The main take-away for me?

I chose the book in the first place because one of my current work projects is heavily built upon boosting systemic value creation through significantly increasing the utilisation of the key assets in the system. The book certainly reinforced my thinking about this strategic posture and what can be achieved with it. Moreover, the book also provided some insights into how to bring about such change.

Who should read the book?

I believe that this book belongs first and foremost to a CEO's bedside table, and the book clearly is intended as being such. And better yet, the book should also be found on his/her HR manager's table. However, the narrative style of the book perhaps is most appealing to readers from certain cultural traditions, and Scandinavian readers may fall somewhat outside the most receptive audience.

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