In the case study, The British Airways Swipe Card Debacle, British Airways (BA) introduced ‘a system for electronic clocking in that would record when they [employees] started and finished work for the day… which was a unilateral decision by BA to introduce the swipe card, and a lack of adequate consultation with affected staff” (Palmer, Dunford, Akin, 2009, pp. 239 & 240). As a result, the BA staff held a twenty-four hour wildcat strike which caused BA to cancel its services, leaving over 10,000 passengers stranded.
The lack of change management is apparent and ways of avoiding a repeat of this situation are addressed.
British Airways Swipe Card Debacle Swipe cards. WOW! I wonder why when an organization introduces swipe cards the employees go berserk. It happened at my company. If an employee is not doing anything wrong why would they object to the use of swipe cards? In the case of my organization, it was implemented at first as identification cards, the program grew to restrict access to certain areas and then to reduce absenteeism/tardiness. We are a secure campus and the introduction of identification cards was to restrict patients from walking in and not signing in and non-patients from walking in and wandering around the buildings.
We experienced some thefts and it was determined that keeping track of who was in the building would reduce the potential. The restricted areas consisted mostly of materials management and the organization wished to restrict the employees who were able to access these areas due to inventory inconsistencies. Actually, these two issues were not a bother to the employees. When the swipe cards became a way of timekeeping tracking, a segment of the employees were up in arms. It was this segment of employees who usually violated coming to work on time.
Comments included but were not limited to: “now Big Brother is keeping tabs on us” and “they want an excuse to fire us. ” My personal ethics are, you come to work, you come to work on time, and you do not steal. In the case study, The British Airways Swipe Card Debacle, British Airways (BA) introduced ‘a system for electronic clocking in that would record when they [employees] started and finished work for the day… which was a unilateral decision by BA to introduce the swipe card, and a lack of adequate consultation with affected staff” (Palmer, Dunford, Akin, 2009, pp. 39 & 240). As a result, the BA staff held a twenty-four hour wildcat strike which caused BA to cancel its services, leaving over 10,000 passengers stranded. Key Issues to Understand the Strike In the matter of organization development, the lack of regard concerning BA personnel such as the non-implementation of clocking-in mechanisms is apparent. The BA management failed to circulate the information about the new policy implementation on swipe cards. “People are not so much resistant to change as they are resistant to being controlled” (Zigarmi & Hoekstra, 2008, p. 8).
The disruption that BA had faced certainly resulted from a deep-rooted conviction by the staff that the BA administration fell short to run the company in an effective and economical system. Concerning sense-making, BA’s implementation of the swipe cards is a rational policy and especially beneficial for restricted areas in order to avoid trespassers or illegal entries. “Different groups will apply their own retrospective sense-making in order to understand emerging organizational events’ (Palmer, et al, 2009, p, 207). In change management, the BA administration failed to get the staff to buy-in.
The decision was made to implement the swipe cards without taking into consideration the concerns of the staff. Employees “want to know why the change initiative will benefit them or what they will lose” (Zigarmi & Hoekstra, 2008, p. 3). The BA Administration did not create an atmosphere of trust nor were they concerned at how the change would affect the employees. When the change initiative failed, BA did not have a contingency plan when the strike occurred. “The situation was heralded as the worst industrial situation BA had faced since 1997 when a strike was called by its cabin crew” (Palmer, et al, 2009, p. 39). BA took “the commanding change intervention…where the time period is short term, abrupt, and rapid. The change was implemented by senior executives who demanded compliance from organizational members” (p. 231). BA employees were given a 5 day notice. And lastly in the processual approach, collective bargaining process of negotiation was achieved. As part of this approach, “stabilizing change, or making things which happen stick, includes changing the organization’s systems in order to reinforce and support the changes” (Palmer, et al, 2009, p. 34) BA agreed to a pay increase and to “delay making the swipe card system operational until September 1” (p. 240). This provided the employees time to adjust to the change. Avoiding the Situation in the Future A change consultant should advise the BA administration how to avoid this situation in future dealings with change and the employees. A strategy should be implemented to effectively implement change and “should be used relentlessly and consistently throughout the change process” (Zigarmi & Hoekstra, 2008, p. 5).
The lessons that emerge from each perspective and the recommendations to the BA administration are as follows. In organizational development, the dissemination of information should be properly carried out. “People leading the change think that announcing the change is the same as implementing it” (p. 2). It is highly recommended that the employees be advised of every proposed change in order to reduce potential roadblocks to the change, as in this case a strike. In sense making, the BA administration should have reflected on its employees.
The administration did not take into consideration the concerns of the employees with regard to how they perceived the change to using swipe cards. A recommendation would be to hold meetings to address the employee’s concerns. Change management must take in all concerns in order to lead a change. Highly recommended is Ken Blanchard’s Six Stages of Concern. In Blanchard’s Concern model, all elements of concerns during change are addressed: information concerns, personal concerns, implementation concerns, impact concerns, collaboration concerns and refinement concerns.
In contingency, “BA could hire permanent strikebreakers to replace striking workers. It is increasingly common for management to hire labor management consultants who specialize in mounting aggressive anti-union drives to dissuade workers from unionizing or to persuade union workers to decertify their union” (Riggs, 2008, para. 7). As a recommendation this would be a drastic resolution, however, it would prevent future strikes. In processual aspect, the BA administration could provide benefits and services which would reduce the allure of a union membership. Disputes could be settled through mediation or negotiation.
Negotiation and mediation are different in that negotiation is between two or more parties working together toward the bargaining resolution of an issue while mediation requires the intervention of an impartial third party. During a negotiation, the parties, having decision-making authority, will work towards a mutually acceptable settlement of the conflict. During mediation, a third party, who is acceptable to the disputants, and has no decision-making authority, and can only guide the disputants to a mutually acceptable settlement of the conflict. (Polakowski, 2010, para. 4).
Change Perspective to Understand the Issue In order to understand the swipe card issue one must all perspectives into account; organization development, sense making, change management, contingency, and processual perspectives. Organizational development so that all employees buy-in to the initiative, sense-making so that all personal and business concerns are addressed prior to implementation, change management so that a strategy is created to initiate and implement a change, contingency so that if the change fails there is a plan to fall back on, and processual in order to reinforce and support the change.
Broad Conclusions “BA had been guilty of bad management and crass stupidity for not predicting the level of anger to the swipe card, according to Rod Eddington, the chief executive of BA” (Palmer, et al, 2009, p. 240). Technology is a vital element to modern organizations and executives cannot throw new technology at its employees and expect them to be comfortable with it. Today’s economic situation has forced many organizations to find creative ways to reduce business costs and cost efficiency should have been conveyed to the employees “in order to increase the level of influence” (Zigarmi & Hoekstra, 2008, p. ). Conclusion In conclusion, effective communication can create productive change. However, some “change efforts create far more problems than solutions…and poor planning and execution derail efforts that might have been successful” (Shockley-Zalabak, 2009, p. 370) as we have seen in the case study. “By addressing the stages of concern and be responsive with strategies to increase involvement…organizations can dramatically increase the probability of successfully initiating, implementing and sustaining change” (Zigarmi & Hoekstra, 2008, p. 8).
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