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In the final project, you will be developing a change plan for the “Alaska Airlines: Navigating Change” case study. In The Heart of Change Field Guide: Tools and Tactics for Leading Change in Your Organization, Cohen explains what is required from the leader and other parts of the organization to incorporate Kotter’s steps successfully as a change intervention.Review the case study “Alaska Airlines: Navigating Change” and then complete the following: (a) State what actually occurred in the case regarding Kotter’s first two steps of establishing a sense of urgency and creating the guiding team in a change effort and (b) address each of the critical elements for Section II parts A and B in your change effort analysis. Make sure to include your recommendations for implementing Kotter’s steps 1 and 2.A. Create Urgency
Describe a plan to create urgency within the organization and convince stakeholders that this change needs to take place.
What processes currently exist for implementing change? How will these processes need to be updated for the proposed change?
Describe the strategy you will use to get support from your employees. How will this strategy be effective?
B. Build a Guiding Coalition
Identify who should be involved in this guiding coalition. Provide rationale for each choice. Kotter likes 50% leaders and 50% managers with experience, while others prefer the composition to be 33% leaders, 33% managers, and 33% informal leaders, but you can assemble the guiding coalition as you see fit.
Determine steps you can take to ensure commitment from those involved. Describe those steps.
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OL 663 Milestone One Guidelines and Rubric
In the final project, you will be developing a change plan for the “Alaska Airlines: Navigating Change.” In The Heart of Change Field Guide: Tools and Tactics for
Leading Change in Your Organization, Cohen explains what is required from the leader and other parts of the organization to deliver Kotter’s steps successfully
as a change intervention.
Review the case study “Alaska Airlines: Navigating Change” and then complete the following: (a) State what actually occurred in the case regarding Kotter’s first
two steps of establishing a sense of urgency and creating the guiding team in a change effort and (b) reflect on what you think should have been done in the
change effort regarding those two steps. State your reflection as recommendations to implement Kotter’s steps 1 and 2.
This milestone will help you build Section I parts A and B of your final project.
A. Create Urgency
1. Describe a plan to create urgency within the organization and convince stakeholders that this change needs to take place.
2. What processes currently exist for implementing change? How will these processes need to be updated for the proposed change?
3. Describe the strategy you will use to get support from your employees. How will this strategy be effective?
B. Build a Guiding Coalition
1. Identify who should be involved in this guiding coalition. Provide rationale for each choice. Kotter likes 50% leaders and 50% managers with
experience, while others prefer the composition to be 33% leaders, 33% managers, and 33% informal leaders, but you can assemble the guiding
coalition as you see fit.
2. Determine steps you can take to ensure commitment from those involved. Describe those steps.
Guidelines for Submission: Your paper must be submitted as a 3–6-page Microsoft Word document with double spacing, 12-point Times New Roman font, oneinch margins, and at least three sources cited in APA format.
Critical Elements
Change Plan: Urgency
Exemplary (100%)
Meets “Proficient” criteria, and
description is exceptionally
clear and contextualized
Proficient (90%)
Describes a plan to create
urgency within the organization
and convince stakeholders that
the change needs to take place
Needs Improvement (70%)
Describes a plan to create
urgency within the organization
and convince stakeholders that
the change needs to take place,
but plan is misaligned with the
problem
Not Evident (0%)
Does not describe a plan to
create urgency within the
organization
Value
20
Change Plan:
Processes
Meets “Proficient” criteria, and
description is well supported
with examples
Change Plan: Support
Meets “Proficient” criteria, and
description is exceptionally
clear and contextualized
Change Plan: Guiding
Coalition
Meets “Proficient” criteria, and
rationale demonstrates a
nuanced understanding of the
roles involved in a coalition
Meets “Proficient” criteria, and
description is exceptionally
clear and contextualized
Change Plan:
Commitment
Identifies current processes for
implementing change and
describes how processes will
need to be updated for
proposed change
Describes a strategy to gain
support from employees and
describes how the strategy will
be effective
Identifies who should be
involved in the guiding coalition
and provides rationale for each
choice
Determines steps for ensuring
commitment from those
involved and describes each
step
Identifies current processes for
implementing change, but does
not describe how processes will
need to be updated for
proposed change
Describes a strategy to gain
support from employees, but
does not describe how the
strategy will be effective
Identifies who should be
involved in the guiding
coalition, but does not provide
rationale for each choice
Determines steps for ensuring
commitment from those
involved, but does not describe
each step
Does not identify current
processes for implementing
change
20
Does not describe a strategy to
gain support from employees
20
Does not identify who should
be involved in the guiding
coalition
20
Does not determine steps for
ensuring commitment
20
Total
100%
For the exclusive use of M. RIVERA, 2019.
W14722
ALASKA AIRLINES: NAVIGATING CHANGE
Bruce J. Avolio, Chelley Patterson and Bradford Baker wrote this case solely to provide material for class discussion. The authors do
not intend to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a managerial situation. The authors may have disguised certain names
and other identifying information to protect confidentiality.
This publication may not be transmitted, photocopied, digitized or otherwise reproduced in any form or by any means without the
permission of the copyright holder. Reproduction of this material is not covered under authorization by any reproduction rights
organization. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, contact Ivey Publishing, Ivey Business School, Western
University, London, Ontario, Canada, N6G 0N1; (t) 519.661.3208; (e) [email protected]; www.iveycases.com.
Copyright © 2015, Richard Ivey School of Business Foundation
Version: 2017-07-20
In the autumn of 2007, Alaska Airlines executives adjourned at the end of a long and stressful day in the
midst of a multi-day strategic planning session. Most headed outside to relax, unwind and enjoy a bonfire
on the shore of Semiahmoo Spit, outside the meeting venue in Blaine, a seaport town in northwest
Washington state.
Meanwhile, several members of the senior executive committee and a few others met to discuss how to
adjust plans for the day ahead. This group included Bill Ayer, president and chief executive officer (CEO);
Brad Tilden, executive vice-president (EVP) of finance and chief financial officer; Glenn Johnson, EVP of
airport service and maintenance & engineering; the company’s chief counsel and executives from
Marketing and Planning, Strategic Planning and Employee Services. They were concerned that the airline
was steadily draining its reserves of customer loyalty and goodwill, which until recently had seemed
abundant — even boundless.
Alaska Airlines had recovered from an all-time operational low, where only 60 per cent of flights were on
time and seven bags per 1,000 passengers were reported as having been mishandled (defined by the
Department of Transportation as checked baggage that was lost, pilfered, damaged or delayed). The airline
was now back to the lower end of its pre-crisis status quo of 70 to 75 per cent on-time flights and four
mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers.1 Both these important metrics continued to vary from one day to the
next. Although the situation on the ramp was stable for the time being, it was still fragile, with the ground
crew handling baggage and also performing ground service in between flights. After focusing many
resources on operations to improve the airline’s operational results, the executives wondered what might
happen if performance were to slip again. Would the airline slip farther and faster than before? What would
it take to again recover to the current status quo? Would customers continue to be forgiving? Would this
mediocre level of improvement be sufficient?
Below is the agenda created that night for the next day’s discussions, when the full group would again
convene:
1
Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement, U.S. Department of Transportation, Air Travel Consumer Report, 2012,
http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/reports/, accessed July 7, 2013.
This document is authorized for use only by MANUEL RIVERA in OL-663 Leading Change 19TW3 taught by SNHU INSTRUCTOR, Southern New Hampshire University from Jan 2019 to May
2019.
For the exclusive use of M. RIVERA, 2019.
Page 2
9B14C059
9:00–11:00 a.m. 2008 Plan Discussion
Setup: No room for failure; tiger by the tail; you have 12 months to fix the operation sustainably and no
severance. What would the Carlyle group do if it purchased Alaska Airlines?



If you were the Carlyle Group, what proposals would you accept and why?
What else would you do?
How much benefit do you expect and how soon?
The following morning, the top executive team posed a tough question to the group, about 25 in all. One
executive recalled the framing of the activity the next day as follows:
What would a Carlyle2 or a Warren Buffet do? Imagine a big conglomerate has just come in and
bought the airline. We’re a $3 billion 3 company making little money; our reputation with our
customers has taken a beating; we’ve had major problems with Seattle, our main hub; and we’ve had
problems with two large groups of employees. What would Carlyle do because [it is] emotionally
unattached to this?
The assembled executives divided into groups to discuss different elements of the problem. One executive
recalled the experience and the outcome of that day as “one of the ugliest sessions I’ve ever been a part of.
Yet, we came out of there joined at the hip saying that the biggest challenge we faced was our operation
and it had to be fixed, and it had to be fixed now.”
Indeed, a three-pronged recommendation emerged:
1. We need to fix the Seattle hub first before trying to fix the whole system.
2. We need a higher-level person to devote 100 per cent of time to fixing the Seattle hub.
3. This person needs to be able to cross boundaries and break through silos.
A few weeks later, the executive leadership did two things. First, it appointed the staff vice-president (VP)
of operations to the new role of VP of Seattle Operations. Previously, the Seattle station had been run by
the individual managers of each functional operational unit (e.g., ticket counter, maintenance, inflight, flight
operations), each working within his or her silo. As the executive leadership explained to the new VP of
Seattle Operations, “Carlyle would come in and assign someone to fix Seattle and [it would] say either you
fix it or you’re gone.” That was the message. Second, the executive leadership told everyone at the SeattleTacoma International or Sea-Tac Airport that, in addition to reporting to his or her functional manager, each
now had a dotted-line reporting relationship to the new VP of Seattle Operations and were expected to fully
support him.
The new VP brought all the leaders of Seattle together and instituted a data-driven process, which involved
identifying standard processes: a detailed timeline for the time between aircraft arrival and departure, using
scorecards to measure how well Alaska was following its intended processes. Over time, standard work
processes were defined, and daily scorecards provided visibility about performance for each step in the
aircraft turn. Process improvement efforts were applied to remove wasted steps.
2
Carlyle Group was a global asset management firm that began investing in corporate private equity in 1990 through
investments in leveraged buyout transactions. These transactions involved finding and investing in underperforming, lossmaking businesses that had potential for growth, then selling them after exercising management and financial restructuring to
turnaround these “down-and-out” businesses. One of Carlyle’s turnaround strategies was to place its own choice of CEO at
the helm of a troubled acquisition and to create greater ownership among management.
3
All currency amounts are shown in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted.
This document is authorized for use only by MANUEL RIVERA in OL-663 Leading Change 19TW3 taught by SNHU INSTRUCTOR, Southern New Hampshire University from Jan 2019 to May
2019.
For the exclusive use of M. RIVERA, 2019.
Page 3
9B14C059
This rigour led to a dramatic and sustained turnaround in Department of Transportation rankings for ontime departures, J.D. Power’s standings,4 mishandled bag rates (MBR) and operating margins from 2005
to 2010 with 2008 being a pivotal year (see Exhibit 1). Indeed, Alaska Airlines achieved the number-one
ranking in J.D. Power for customer satisfaction in year one (2008) following the initiation of the change
effort and for the next five years. In year two of the change effort, under a company-wide oversight team
led by the new VP of Seattle Operations, the Seattle work processes were standardized throughout the
system. Financial and operational performance received an additional boost when the company transitioned
its MD-80 aircraft out of the fleet. Modelled after Southwest Airlines’ aircraft strategy, an all-Boeing 737
fleet promised greater fuel efficiency and fleet reliability, and required only Boeing parts in inventory and
simplified training for maintenance staff and crew.
To understand the dramatic changes and root causes that were addressed between autumn 2007 and midyear 2010, it is necessary to go back before 2006, when passengers were angered by mishandled bags and
wait times at the carousel, sometimes to the extent that airport police had to be called to the baggage claim
area to intervene. Indeed, insight into contributing causes could be traced back prior to 2005, when the
pilots, demoralized as a result of pay cuts, resisted efforts to improve operational performance, were
comparatively slow to taxi and often reported maintenance problems at the last minute, resulting in what
some executives saw as an unnecessary work slowdown. Other contributing causes included rocky contract
negotiations with other labour groups, which affected the engagement of other employee groups, and ramp
management’s hands-off approach to ramp operations oversight, which resulted in a lack of operational
understanding. One executive noted that root causes stemmed back to 1999, when the airline was
“succeeding despite themselves due to fortuitous fuel costs and a good economy.” The following is an
overview of the history, culture and events leading up to the 2007 decision to create the role of VP of Seattle
Operations; also included is a more detailed account of what occurred between 2007 and 2010 to fix the
airline’s largest hub, including a look at the root causes and subsequent solutions necessary for analyzing
the changes and leadership driving this rapid turnaround.
THE HISTORY OF ALASKA AIRLINES: EIGHTY YEARS IN THE AIR
Alaska Air Group traced its roots to McGee Airlines, founded in Alaska in 1932 by bush pilot Mac McGee.
The airline merged with Star Air Service in 1934, making it the largest airline in Alaska with 22 planes;
however, many of these planes were small bush planes and would eventually be decommissioned as the
airline grew. At the 10-year mark in 1942, the company was purchased and the name changed to Alaska
Star Airlines, with a final name change in 1944. By 1972, the company was struggling but was salvaged by
new leadership, which focused on improving operations and taking advantage of the rich opportunities that
came with the construction of the trans-Alaska Pipeline. The following year, 1973, marked the first of 19
consecutive years of profitability, aided in part by industry deregulation in 1979, which enabled the 10plane airline to expand throughout the West Coast, beyond its previous service to 10 Alaskan cities and to
Seattle, its single destination in the “lower 48 states.” By the end of the 1980s, Alaska Airlines (Alaska)
had tripled in size, in part as a result of having joined forces with Horizon Air and Jet America. Its fleet had
increased five-fold and the route map now included flights to Mexico and Russia.
As of mid-2010, the airline employed roughly 8,650 with an additional 3,000 or so employed in Horizon
Air. Approximately 160 to 170 of the airline’s employees were at the director level and above (including
4
J.D. Power is an American-based global market research firm founded in 1968 and purchased in 2005 by McGraw Hill
Financial for inclusion in its Information and Media Group. The firm conducts consumer opinion and perception research about
customer satisfaction with product and service quality in a variety of industries including travel. J.D.Power produces ratings
and awards based on its research that aid consumers in making informed purchase decisions. Awards are sought after by
corporations for their endorsement value.
This document is authorized for use only by MANUEL RIVERA in OL-663 Leading Change 19TW3 taught by SNHU INSTRUCTOR, Southern New Hampshire University from Jan 2019 to May
2019.
For the exclusive use of M. RIVERA, 2019.
Page 4
9B14C059
directors, managing directors and VPs). The two airlines, at this point, shared many backroom services such
as accounting and planning. Exhibit 2 provides some basic operating data for the period 2002 to 2010.
PERFORMANCE: A CULTURE OF “JUST GOOD ENOUGH”
Throughout the 1990s, Alaska was typically in the middle of the pack in terms of most airline performance
indices, such as on-time departures. Falling in the middle range of performance without significant
motivation for change appeared to be based on the mentality that, “it’s OK to be late, so long as we’re nice.”
This viewpoint could partially be attributed to the leadership of Ray Vecci, the CEO from 1990 to 1995,
who openly fought the adoption of mandatory Departure on Time (DOT) reporting requirements, saying
that Alaska was different because of its operating environment. Vecci’s attitude led to a general tendency
to “blame the system” rather than confront the fact that Alaska was rarely on time. Alaska’s employees
prided themselves on having the best customer service in the industry, which they defined as being nice —
not necessarily as being efficient. Indeed, Alaska enjoyed a great deal of customer loyalty and a significant
reserve of goodwill from its customers.
LABOUR RELATIONS: A LONG AND HARRIED HISTORY
In 1945, the pilots were the first of Alaska’s employee groups to form a union, followed in 1959 and 1961,
by the organization of mechanics and flight attendants, respectively. In 1972, customer service, baggage
handlers and other operational employees followed suit.
As for many of the major carriers and for smaller, older airlines, such as Alaska, labour negotiations
(sometimes marked by strong contentions, slowdowns, strikes and flight cancellations) were a routine and
costly aspect of the airline business. Even when settlements were reached through negotiation or binding
arbitration, resentments could last for years, affecting both morale and productivity. An airline could be in
almost constant negotiations as employment contracts lasted from three to five years (depending on the
union), and as many as six collective bargaining agreements could be in play.
For Alaska, despite a strong employee-customer bond, the relationship between labour and management
fell short of being ideal for many years. An International Association of Machinists (IAM) strike in 1985
lasted for three months, during which time replacement workers were hired.5 In 1993, a flight attendants’
intermittent strike, the suspension of 17 flight attendants and a subsequent federally ordered reinstatement
suggested the tip of a larger iceberg of labour-management problems looming ahead. The flight attendants’
strike was a unique form of “intermittent strike” called CHAOS (and still used today by Association of
Flight Attendants), which Alaska management viewed as illegal job action. In 1998, contentious contract
negotiations between the company and members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association began
and were not settled until the middle of 1999. As in the case of the pilots’ union agreement of the prior year,
this new agreement called for third-party binding arbitration in the event that future agreements could not
be reached in 120 days. In the fall of 1999, the IAM, representing clerical workers and customer service
agents, reached an agreement after more than two years of protracted negotiation.
By the end of 1999, contract settlements had been reached with four out of six unions, leading to a new
wave of contract nego …
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