A Beacon of Hope for the Keep It Simple Stupid Way of Working
Southwest’s 7 secrets for success is a beacon of hope for “smart” business. There is hope! Simple is profitable, but yet, inspite of itself, so many companies want to “be smart” and complicate things. I have no idea why.
How we can learn from Southwest to run our IT departments the same way to bring value to the business:
1. Southwest: One plane fits all - can it be that this can also be applied to our systems and processes? How many different ways must we do the same process or procedure across the enterprise? Following this, how many different ways must be measure the same process or procedure? Of course, because the same process is performed differently, measuring it would also be different so it’s self-fulfilling. Yes, there are many paths to the same destination but operationally, that’s a stupid way to do it. Cynically, it’s because of the law of self-preservation, people must create complexity and work for their corporate existence. It’s the Wally’s of the world, a typical class of corporate being.
2. Southwest: Point-to-point flying - how about that, the quickest, easiest, and cost effective way to get to the next point is direct and uninterrupted. Why is it that IT managers don’t or can’t just keep it simple and straightforward? Why load it up with bells and whistles on a management information system that requires nothing more than a “can I click a button and get my information” without running through several layers of technology and massaged through the latest reporting software tool?
No, sorry customer you can’t because well, if you knew how simple it was, we’d lose our jobs and you would want to do IT yourself. And we can’t have that you see…you understand right? Anyways, we know where many of you think just because you set up your home wifi network, you’re now qualified to be the IT manager. Right.
3. Southwest: Simple in-flight service - how about that, every customer is the same because most customers just wants to get from A -> B with a minimum of fuss*. Delivery of service and information is all about quick, fast, and to the point without 100 different ways to describe the same thing. You know, black is …. well, black and white is… you get the point. How many consultants do we need to tell us that?!
* I’m a repeat Marco Polo Gold member and having done 55 sectors in 5 months this year so I believe I’ve got a good perspective on flying needs of a typical passenger.
4. Southwest: No frills, no fees - Yes, a simple service model. Flat rate for all-inclusive service. Makes my customer relationship uncomplicated, makes it easier to provide a good service, and most importantly makes it simple to provide value to the business partner who just wants it, not how it was done. Follow this and you’ve got the essence of providing customer satisfaction and earning “repeat business”.
5. Southwest: Strong management - Oops, now that’s a tough one. Not really, it’s simple too – “Birds of a feather flock together”. This proverb is NEVER wrong.
6. Southwest: A relatively happy workforce - Morale is completely underrated. Managers forget the simple rule that there’s no “I” in T-E-A-M. Remember, Google isn’t just about two guys named Sergey and Larry. They had some really good heavy lifters who believed in the mission, vision, and executed the strategy. Same for us in the trenches… our successes, failures, happiness and unhappiness, depends much on those who immediately touch us daily. We do it for our team(s). Daily IT or Project Management in some ways feels like the corporate version of trench warefare, guerrilla warefare, or fighting an insurgency. At the end of the day, it’s our “cubicle colleagues” who we fight for and fight with….because no one truly understands.**
**I’m a relative newbie to IT and Project Management. However, if there’s anything one thing I know in my heart of hearts about the people in IT and Project Management, they’ve got to be a few fries short of a happy meal to be able to do this kind of work day-in-day out as their life calling. It takes either a complete fool or a completely deranged person to put up with the kind of “corporate combat” with so little obvious upside. If we take an American Football analogy, IT and Project Guys are like the linemen of the team. Totally unglamorous, ugly, anonymous – except for when they get flagged for a penalty. IT guys – anything less than 100% is nearly there. 100% is just doing your job and anything over 100% well, that means you keep your job for awhile. Project Managers have it even worse probably – no credit and all the blame. Wow, sign me up for one of those jobs baby!
7. Southwest: Aggressive fuel hedging - That’s called knowing your core business and creating lots of buffer/reserve to ensure the continuing good-will of your service.
*** ADDENDUM: I found this KISS gem from Toby Ward from 2006 on IntranetBlogs.
Love his example diagram, where in a picture it captures the essence of what’s so often wrong – too much genius. The world isn’t that smart people…it really isn’t.