BWIAs leadership and board of directors have failed
to provide the Government with a business plan in which it
The airlines future is now in the hands of a business-focused
task force, to decide whether it should be a stand alone entity,
or an integrated Caribbean airline.
The team of Arthur Lok Jack, William Lucie-Smith, Gervase
Warner, Dr Shafeek Sultan-Khan and Dr Terry Farrell is a powerful
one, with the talents and competencies required to make a
comprehensive assessment and recommendation to the Government.
Theirs is a tall order. Decisions they make will have far-reaching
implications for air transport in the Caribbean and Latin
America for decades to come.
Assuming the task force recommends a reconstituted BWIAand
I suspect that will be one of the outcomeshere are some
imperatives for the airline.
1. Reconstituted leadership
The airline needs leadership of the Herb Kelleher/David Neeleman
ilk, both outstanding airline leaders with a knack for managing
Herb Kelleher is the legendary leader who has led Southwest
through successive years of profitability while the rest of
the industry swims in red ink. JetBlue is David Neelemans
third successful aviation business.
These maverick airline executives energised and invigorated
people around visions with the charisma and personality to
create passion around their organisations futures.
Over the past 30 years, there have been only two successfully
sustained airline startups in the United States. The first
is Herb Kellehers Southwest Airlines which is now the
highest-valued airline in the world by market capitalisation.
The second is David Neelemans JetBlue Airways.
2. Employees first, then customers, then shareholders
In his BWIA 2003 The New Business Model, Conrad
management has often stated, one can have the best aircraft
in the world, the best route rights, the newest technology,
and the most advanced systems and processes, but without the
people, you cannot have an airline.
But Aleong failed to motivate employees to share his vision
of the future.
It should come as no surprise then, that the current BWIA
business restructuring mindset is still top-down focused,
with calls foryou guessed itmore concessions from
its employees and the unions (Trinidad Guardian, March 6).
intends to get its employees to accept work rule changes so
that productivity is comparable to international airline standards.
Lets take a closer look at this item.
First. Intends to get employees to accept work rule
changes? This language is neither motivating nor participative!
Rather, it sets up adversarial relationships from the get
Second. Comparable to international airline standards?
In other words, we will not try to do things that will differentiate
BWIA from its competitors! Lets continue to judge ourselves
by failed standards and practices.
An outmoded management mindset stuck in command and control
mode is not indicative of the progressive leadership needed
to transform the airline.
A note about employee ownership. An interesting phenomenon
takes place when employees own a piece of the business. They
begin to think about how to improve the business because if
the business is successful then they are. If you own it you
treat it differentlybecause its yours. You do
whatever it takes to make it successful.
The airline should offer employees stock ownership. Given
the right leadership, employees will be motivated to increase
the value of their shares.
Increased shareholder value comes from increased/improved
value to customers, which in turn comes from valuing
3. A plan that works
The plan submitted for review by the Parliamentary
Sub-Committee used all the right buzz termsredesign
the organisation, devise new strategic visions, comprehensive
strategies, redesign work processes, increase productivity,
efficiency, and quality. So did the 2003 Aleong document.
Despite its shortcomings, the seven-strategy Aleong model
laid out a set of goals which could have been enhanced by
current leadership over the past 22 months to:
1. Articulate/rearticulate strategic imperatives aimed at
accomplishing the vision,
2. Gain commitment from employees to the future of the airline
by involving them in the planning process,
3. Define expectations of employees at every level in the
organisation, hold each one accountable for results, and communicate,
4. Achieve the bottom line results of returning
value to shareholders from their investment in the airline.
After 22 months, what we have is reinvention of the
4. Government and board leadership
A reconstituted BWIA can be turned around. But it will take
more than an infusion of $222 million. It will take resolution
to alter the cultural direction of the airline. Theres
too much at stake to do otherwise.
1. Terms of reference for the Board of Directors must be redefined,
with a focus on accountability.
2. Forward thinking leadership must be installed at the airline
Create an invigorating vision of the future, with strategies
for including both employees and the unions as partners, not
Gain employees trust, and get them thinking like the
21st century competitors they can be, prepared to successfully
defend the airlines turf against encroaching competition.
Involve employees in the decision-making process, and hold
both leaders and employees accountable for delivering results.
Convince the marketplace that the airline truly cares, and
that it has transformed itself into a customer-focused airline.
As Aleong stated in his strategy document, BWIAs
people are its biggest asset.
If the airline invests in this asset, the asset will take
care of winning customers, making shareholder value its top
priority, and creating a robust 21st century competitor.
Success is not an entitlement... it must be earned.
is no single thread solution to BWIA
BWIAs future is too heavily intertwined with other economic
factors for it to be treated as a stand-alone business issue.
This task force therefore has to be more global in its perspective.
Whats needed is a Strategic Air Transport Plan for the
Caribbean, with BWIAor its derivativeas a core
component. This plan must have a phased implementation strategy,
with directly-related BWIA issues as its top priorities. These
include decisions on:
1. Organisational transformation
at the airline (immediate)
This outcome will significantly and directly impact all other
task force recommendations.
2. Airline structure/integration
One airline with regional partnerships and international alliances,
or an integrated regional airline with international alliances?
3. Airline routing strategy
Hub-and-spoke? Point-to-point? A combination? Or is there
a more appropriate model?
4. Transforming Caribbean passenger services (immediate/on
The airlines real bread and butter issue, concurrent
focus needed with organisational transformation. The Sunday
Guardian (April 17th) carried yet another example of inexcusable
customer service along the entire BWIA service chain.
5. Regaining Category 1 status
Absolutely required if the airline is to become competitively
6. Transforming Caribbean freight
services (short term/on going)
A potential growth area for the airline.
7. Integrated tourism plans for T&T and the Caribbean
(short term/on going)
Anthony Hosangs recent observation that tourism is a
sector showing significant promise has implications
for BWIA and its strategic directions, and the Vision 2020
goal of creating a more diverse economy. Also, Caribbean tourism
efforts must be viewed as strategic business alliances, and
treated as such.
Peter Berkeley, a national of T&T, is a business transformation
consultant who lives in Louisville, Kentucky. He can be contacted
at [email protected]