British Airways Company Change Management

Achievements of Culture Change Program

From the case study, it is clear that the senior management of British Airways (BA) wished to develop an organizational culture that was customer-oriented and market-focused to enable employees to respond to shifting customer demands. Additionally, the senior management wanted to change the culture of middle-level and line managers from what was perceived as an authoritarian/domination management style to one which was not only open, visible and dynamic, but also emphasized the Marshal’s organizational values of caring, achievement, creativity, innovation, and profit.

Through the introduction of the culture change program, it is also clear that BA’s senior management had a long-term agenda of creating a corporate culture that focused on collaborative working, excellence in the delivery of services to customers, and visible commitment to organizational values, beliefs, and mission. Lastly, BA’s senior management expected to dramatically reduce gaps between customer and employee expectations by coming up with a set of programs that aimed to change the values, practices, and relationships throughout the company by reinforcing trust and sharpening focus on customer service rather than operational excellence.

Extent Cultural Change Program Addressed Employee Beliefs & Practices

The culture change program, in my view, succeeded to change basic employee beliefs and practices from an orientation that focused much attention on routine and functional aspects of their jobs to a new paradigm that was customer-focused and market-oriented. Upon reading and analyzing the case scenario, one cannot fail to see how BA’s senior management took the center stage in driving the change agenda and demonstrating its full commitment to develop a customer-focused workforce through considerable investment in time and money. It is a well-known fact that most change initiatives fail due to lack of commitment from senior management.

The other reason why the culture change program at BA was a success, in my view, is premised on the fact that it relied on a multiplicity of focused programs that targeted employees and managers to trigger an emotional context through which they could actively respond and change. The underlying focus of nearly all of these programs was to change the values, practices, beliefs and working relationships of employees and managers, with the view to creating a conducive environment through which customers could get excellent services, employees could internalize the feelings of belonging and involvement in company affairs, and managers could adopt the new shared vision and effectively adapt their style of management from perceived domination of roles and procedures (authoritarian style) to one which was open, visible and dynamic (transformational style).

Of course, some employees developed a cynical orientation towards the cultural change program, but this is expected in any organizational change effort. However, proactive commitment and engagement of senior management in the training programs definitely reinforced an emotional context among the employees through which they could respond to the change initiatives.

The approach of the Culture Change Program

The culture change program at BA, though initiated by top management, utilized a bottom-up approach. From the case study, it is clear how BA’s senior management first came up with a program titled “Putting the Customer First”, which expressly targeted the 12,000 BA staff in direct contact with customers with their view to assisting employees to change their beliefs, values, and practices toward customer handling. It can be argued that these employees were at the bottom level of the change pyramid since they interacted with customers on daily occasions. Since the change was all about focusing the company to the shifting needs of customers and the market, it is plausible to say that it started from the bottom upwards.

To reinforce this position, it is also clear from the case study that the program was later extended to staff not involved in direct contact with customers, and afterward to employees at management level, thus the bottom-up approach. This type of approach receives little resistance from employees due to the fact that they get to be involved in the change process at an early phase and are therefore at a distinct advantage to internalize the benefits that come with such change.

Introducing a Similar Culture Change Program

The first step would be to undertake extensive market research intended to reveal gaps that are leading to the problem. The second step would be to convene meetings with senior management, deliberate on the findings of the market research, and afterward develop strategies and programs that will be focused on addressing the problem. The third step would be to orient the targeted sections of employees to create an understanding that the strategies and programs need to be implemented so as to achieve competitiveness and productivity in the company.

With the full support of senior management, the next step would be to expose employees to training not only to enhance the internalization of new values, beliefs, and practices but also to introduce a new corporate identity that will reflect a new paradigm in the company’s engagement with customers. The fourth step would be to develop and implement other interventions that could be used to reinforce an emotional context among the targeted employees so that they could respond to the change initiatives and act accordingly. Measures to deal with resistance from employees also need to be conceptualized and operationalized. Lastly, the senior management needs to develop strategies to evaluate if the change initiative has been a success.