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Implementation and resistance of the
-change management approach in British Air management team





Change Management

It was during the birth of civil aviation when British Airways was born, these pioneering
times were the days just after the end of Wrold War I. It is now going to be a century when on
25th August, 1919 the first schedule air operation in the world took off (British Airways, 2012).
Those who were young in 1972 still have a emotional link with the name BOAC, or British
Oversas Airways Corporation, this name remained glued to the minds of air travellers worldwide
till 1972 when British Airways was formed, a meger of BOAC and BEA. Each decade thereafter
brought new challenges and shaped British Airways. It was on 12th November 2009 that it
confirmed the merge with Liberia. During the global recession that hit the world when British
Airways went into the red, its profits went down to become loses and then came the period of
change in management at British Airways. Change management has become a very important
factor now and many great organizations, like Microsoft, Google, Boeing, OPEC all have to go
throught it. This aspectdetermines the success of an organisation once change is introduced
within an organisation or the environment in which it operates.

eventually. etc. Organisational change implies taking a system from a state of stability to a new (and changed) state. Kurt Lewin (1951) equated change to a force field. the world becomes increasingly unstable. attitudes. Understanding of the change concept and the nature of change will facilitate learning and development of strategies and. stability as a . He viewed change as a sequence of activities that emanate from disturbances in the stable force field that surrounds the organisation (or object. These competencies will contribute to a sense of being in control. Despite efforts by humans to bring in routines to create more order and stability. Societies are changing rapidly and the people across the world experience much more of a global awareness than before and global competition has become a reality. tends to focus on the role of context. The pervasiveness of change is seen in every sphere of human activity. The goal is an organisation that is constantly creating its future rather than defending its past. With technology innovations and scientific breakthroughs have emerged changed values. the competencies needed for living with change. Implementation and resistance of the -change management approach in British Air management team It is often said that change is the only constant in the world people live in. situation or person). Organisations have been subjected to a state of constant change as a direct result of the changing competitive landscape.BRITISH AIRWAYS 3 1. life expectations.

This paper analyses the implementation and resistance of the change management . Various challenges have been faced by British Airways since its inception.9 per cent.987 million). It serves to more countries with an extensive international network (British Airways.4 per cent for the full year and traffic (RPKs) increased by 7. which subsequently impact on -organisational outcomes. The airline witnessed a growth in its income. Internal and external contextual factors which influenced the strategic changes: British Airways is the largest airlines in the United Kingdom. 1a. Capacity (ASKs) increased by 5. and one of the largest in the world.7 per cent with the like-for-like change being 2. with the remainder being an increase in capacity and traffic.BRITISH AIRWAYS 4 satisfactory state. and the beginning of reaction of events when the force-field is disturbed. expressed in percentage changes from a base year). 2010).2 per cent after stripping out the impact of bmi (Statistical composite that calculates changes in financial markets. This included an increase in passenger revenue of £778 million or 8.5 per cent and 5. of which bmi mainline contributed £262 million.827 million (2011: £9. Porras & Silvers (1991:52) view organisational change as a process. which consists of the following: -an initiative which alters -critical organisational influencing processes -individual behaviours. financial review: Revenue for the year ended 31 December 2012 rose by 8.4 per cent to £10.

burn-out. . Evaluation of the nature of changes It can be argued that the successful ‘change-management’ is crucial to any setting in order to survive and succeed in the continuously evolving business environment (Reiß. hence when an organization is challenged by crisis of any sort or faces gaps in performance. promotion. and midlife crisis. Sometimes even the best management strategies contain latent contradictions which effect management spaces that ultimately lead identities which in turn belie the future aims and objective of the organization. it has to change to survive. Change is life. 2002). The effects of economic crisis or global recession that took place in 2008 are still felt today and it has led to the downfall of many powerful organizations. 1b. A management change is mostly to deal with the two major issues. even for organizations.BRITISH AIRWAYS 5 approach in British Air management team during the period 2009-2011 and challenges faced thereof. The story of British Airways is described as one of the most widely used inspirational accounts of changing culture (Grugulis & Wilkinson. (2) On the individual level change happens to the individual’s expatriate assignments. (1) When organizations are in possession of effective strategies in place but the internal or external factors can turn damaging. 2012).

is a fascinating study into the anatomy of disputes. It did not matter whether the loss of due to internal or external factors.500 flight attendants. The British Airways and Unite (the UK general union with over two million members) dispute in 2010 due to change management strategies implementation.BRITISH AIRWAYS 6 British Airways financial statements show that it made a profit of £875 million only to enter in red with a loss of £401 million in 2009 (Milmo. Due to the global recession the airways experienced low passenger traffic even to the high end markets like the United States. political parties. British Airways has 13. customers and the media. either by retrenching workers or pay rise freeze. but also the government. According to British Airways annual report 2009/2010 (British Airways Plc. The midyear loss by the company called for a change. at that time change was a necessary undertaking to survive. most of them members of Unite. The airline’s unilateral decision to . Sudden and overwhelming oil price rise had to be countered by means of cost reduction in the company’s operation. 2009). The industrial dispute between British Airways and Unite (the UK general union with over two million members) in the spring of 2010 provides a fascinating insight into the anatomy of an industrial dispute involving not only an employer and its employees. the airlines identified five objectives through change management in order to transform it. and these actions have yielded positive results. 2010). or a mix of both.

BRITISH AIRWAYS 7 slash workforce including the cabin crew was actually in an answer to the pre-tax loss of £401m in the previous year. new cabin crew on less attractive perks were appointed. British Airways answer to the strike of its crew during March 2010 was a walkout on different ways. The management took away all discounts offered to the air stewards. and even used volunteers. 1c An outline of the change management strategies Mr. the Chief Executive Officer of British Airways recommended cost reduction changes. He requested the workforce to avail unpaid leaves and do some unpaid work too between a month and he himself did not accept the salary package of £61. Willie Walsh. Even then BA saw a 15% decline in its air traffic. This was due to the thinking of the .000. A retrenchment plan began in 2009 and approximately 5000 workers lost their jobs. A surprising gesture was from the BA pilots who volunteered to act as cabin crew also. In the first ever change that was made was to do away with staff overcrowding. As cabin crew represents the largest segment of any airline workforce to in order to reduce the cabin crew cost by over £140m a year. the restructuring of cabin crew operations and plans to bring pay in line with competitors who are widely reported to pay cabin crew significantly less than BA. the management also requisitioned other airlines cabin crew to serve in BA long haul flights. The Unite went on a seven days strike the fleet is more like a Trojan horse allowing minimum wage workers.

Though the company’s management personnel were accepted the change.BRITISH AIRWAYS 8 management team that BA was overstaffed and this was bad for the company’s growth and even survival. However Lewin also suggested that modifying those forces . the cabin crew was still resistant it. The management recommended that the long haul cabin crew should be reduced to 14 members from fifteen and this meant that since its long haul services began the airways was consistently paying one extra cabin crew for no economic reason. Because many other ‘low-cost’ carriers have posed great challenges not just to BA but to all big airlines of the world. it froze all types of pay rise for two years. Lewin’s change model regards change as moment in time when two forces work against each other one striving to maintain the status quo and the other pushing for change. it would lead the airways towards insolvency. Then British Airways management went for another change. When these forces are both stable Lewin defines this state as quasi-stationary equilibrium. In this regard he also cautioned the union that no resistance would be accepted because if done so. 2008). To change the state at any one state requires change in any of the forces. The Lewin’s change model: It is one of the early fundamental models of planed change. The top brass of British Airways management and engineers accepted a more efficient working system and cut in their salaries. Due to the global hike in fuel prices the CEO of British Air noted that the salary freeze was justified in order to sustain the airline operations (Plumberg & Johnson.

At this stage there is reduction of the forces that maintain the organisations behaviour at the present moment. the BA the Chief Executive Officer. The truth was that the government feared of the consequences of industrial action and its impact on elections.BRITISH AIRWAYS 9 that maintain the status quo produces less tension and resistance than increasing forces for change and consequently is a more effective strategy for change (Waddell.000 passengers on 470 flights on a given day of the second strike. Cummings & Worley. and David Cameron. The strike by the Union took a political dimension. 2011: 22). The unfreezing stage is the stage where by organisations recognizes the need for change. The Challenges and difficulties experienced by the BA team . change and refreeze. the Unite leader. Lewin change process denotes the essential progressions through phases of unfreeze.000 on 350 flights on the previous day. In response to such claims. 1 d. the leader of the Conservative Party gained political clout as he recommended the then PM Gordon Brown is a weak leader as he has failed to support the workers on strike and reign in the union. compared with 43. Len McCluskey said: "This is the great BA con trick… To change matters for the worse the media also joined the fray and shaped public opinion by leaking classified information which only worked in favor of the Union. Willie Walsh. said the airline flew more than 60.

For the success of the implementation of any change the leader established a vision for the process of managing change. Walsh also made sure that his salary remained frozen at £735. This strategy helps in the creation of an outcome picture and for new realities to be adopted and ensured. It involves the development of new behaviours. values and attitudes through changes in organisational structures and processes (Waddell. .000. the level it was set at in 2008. It was called the British airways: Flying into storm. The change team can assess the results of the action and make any needed modifications that can reinforce the new state organisational state British airways tried to adopt the Lewin’s model between the years of 1996 – 2000. the Chief Executive Officer of British Airways understood that a need existed to slash the cost of doing business from top to bottom. The concept and introduction for a change is hard to implement. Willie Walsh cost cutting strategy was implemented in top down manner. once but twice. The CEO of British Airways not just turned down a £334. This is a case of failed management in British Airways where from posting its highest ever profit margin it slipped to its lowest ever share price. 2011: 22). The change stage is a stage in the change model where transformation occurs within the organisation.000 bonus. They failed to follow the sequence of the Lewin’s models and this resulted in a flop of the whole process.BRITISH AIRWAYS 10 Many organisations also try to combat any resistance to change that may want to arise. Willie Walsh. There freezing stage on the other hand is a step that stabilizes the organisation at a new state of equilibrium. Cummings & Worley.

ignorance and denial. 2. Chinese and Singapore wealth funds. but to some he was just unacceptable. it’s inefficient. and it takes a lot of wisdom on the part of the management to counteract them. “Everyone knows that British Airways is in . Colin Matthews of Heathrow as he said “Heathrow is ripping off passengers.” Walsh called the powerful Chief Executive of Heathrow. incapable of running the airport. Walsh also took on Qatar. and said they were using passengers as 'cash cows'.resistance. and it’s been grossly over-rewarded by the CAA. He also criticised the UK government for making policies which discouraged tourism. When workers heard about change management in BA. Change management is not taken lightly by the management. Change in any organization poses great challenges to the management just as it posed challenges to Willie Walsh. the owners of Heathrow. their initial reaction was anxiety. the CEO of British Airways. Academic Report 2 a. fear and curiosity. Then he also went for other employees and more than 7000 employees took voluntary pay cuts. some of the problems are .BRITISH AIRWAYS 11 Willie Walsh was the first Chief Executive who sacked another Chief Executive. While he was understood by some of the employees. overcoming resistance in change management is a very sensitive issue. Core issues to the strategic changes In the management's perspective there are various factors which derails change management.

2009). all of which are essential to performance of the . Willie Walsh spent nearly nine consecutive months in close consultations and deliberations with the Union group at British Air. Our pilots have agreed a pay cut. so whatever was being done came into spotlight by the media. the APS which is a very mature scheme while the NAPS is an immature scheme. To the management British Air is a legacy and is very much unionized. one. A third of our managers have accepted voluntary redundancy. Walsh was confident that the management's rationale for change management is unquestionable so was its fairness.BRITISH AIRWAYS 12 financial difficulty. According to Willie Walsh what was done during 2007 was right in its own context and no parallels should be made between what was being done now. To the management it was necessary to separate the two pension schemes. Specific concerns and problems from a stake holder’s point of view Any organization resembles a family.000 colleagues volunteered for salary reductions because they wanted to help this great British company in a time of dire need” (WALSH. Many of my colleagues understand this. it was the responsible step to take for the management. because due to the global recession. every member playing a role to carry or as a mechanized system with various components. Our engineers have agreed more efficient ways of working. 2b. Willie. But according to Walsh the Trustees controlled the scheme. He was fully committed to the negotiations with the union. And nearly 7.

The stake holders at British Airways. Willie Walsh had to face a great deal of change management strategies implementation. The work-force is the most important stake holder in any organization and so also in British Airways. It is imperative for the management at British Airways to treat its employees in a respectable manner so that they are motivated and their performance increases. and the political component. 2009). are equitable to a family and required strategic management and style. The most daring was by the cabin crew as they did not accept retrenchment and working hours extension without any pay and this was the reason that the strikes were announced (Samuel & Bridges 2010). Advised approaches and recommendations . 2000). The management made sure by involving all the stakeholders about the issues and raising the awareness amongst them and it also undertook open dialogue on its change management strategies with its loyal customers and other external stake holders and to a great extent to the global community. which was challenged by any strikes due to change management implementation. an organization that treats their stakeholders well is perceived to be well. According to Whysall.managed (Whysall. The structural component implies that the organization is taken from the point of view of being a machine or factory. so that it can operate smoothly. Walsh had to be sure that his strategies of change management are implemented and he also evaluated it to be satisfied.BRITISH AIRWAYS 13 machine (Lussier & Achua. Systemic leadership style model has various components and these are structural component. In its history British Airways has faced many managerial challenges and it has successfully dealt with staffing or strategic issues. human resource component. 2c.

It is essential for British Air to liaise with all the stakeholders in an effective manner and should not leave any issues just for the Public Relations department. work on a tight budget without compromising on quality of services. strikes play havoc to the image and reputation of organizations like British Airways. then the board of directors . Resistance can be shown by dissatisfied stakeholders by means of going for a strike or go-slow activities which in turn can sabotage the organization. Similarly involvement of political parties should be avoided as it impacts elections. Hence management of British Airways should welcome stakeholders’ opinion and value them. and only helps in showing the flaws in leadership style. The pioneering work of Greiner (1972. Lack of communication is the root cause of resistance. 2011). the management is recommended to accept risks by increasing flexibility.BRITISH AIRWAYS 14 Change initiatives are like projects. If the deliberation between the stakeholders and the management conclusions sums up the need to implement change. The management should be prepared to meet all deadlines. as they have budget constraints and deadlines (Cabanis-Brewin. The stakeholders of British Airways can be persuaded to cooperate in the process of change implementation process. Because not all the stakeholders know about the organization's limitations. and media hype should not be created. and issue focused stakeholders’ management. like the cabin crew strike at British Airways. At various junctures. Effective strategies should be in place to face any such circumstances like economic recession. Lessons learnt should be incorporated. For British Airways to be successful it should make sure to be successful in change implementation and also carefully communicate with all stakeholders. Strikes are not liked by managers by earn the sympathy of the masses in case they are held against retrenchment of workers. 1998) is perhaps the best-known contribution toward this paradigm Today travel industry is highly organized and competitive hence managers are often challenged in the management of the business.

British Airways should be ever ready to grasp on new opportunities. It is the duty of the management to protect the brand image and the corporate identity. 2009). which come through change management. Stuart. Brand image and corporate identity are interconnected and belong to all the stakeholders (Balmer. References . he should know the needs of the people and the organization.BRITISH AIRWAYS 15 in the Company should agree to these suggestions. teams and organisations have to engage in continuous learning and improvement. The management at British Airways understood that any organization's identify resides with the stakeholders (Balmer. Services improve when problems are understood and solutions made. 2004). A manager who is also the leader is the architect of the strategies. competency-building. 2009). & Greyser. To stay competitive individuals. The work pool should be ready to face such challenges and accept change by understanding why these changes are essential for the sake of the good of the organization. & Greyser. Stuart. the capacity to engage in continuous change (Van Tonder. and above all.

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