British Airway Case Study

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The British Airways Swipe Card Debacle
On July 18, 2003, British Airways (BA) staff held a 24-hour strike (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2009). This strike was in protest of a newly introduced system that would electronically record when staff started and fished work for the day. For BA management it was a way to “modernize” its systems, while “improving the efficient use of staff and resources (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2009).” Unfortunately, BA staff felt that it would enable mangers a reason to manipulate their work hours and shifts. The poor attitudes and resistance to the change was due to a lack of communication between management and its staff. Change Perspectives – Key issues

The strike that was unauthorized by the labor union was still effective, a wildcat strike as it is commonly called, was caused by what staff felt was drastic changes to the employment system. Specifically, the point of contention was the upcoming introduction of the swipe card system – an electronic clocking-in system to record the start and end of every employee’s daily work (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2009). In order to understand the wildcat strike committed by the BA Staff, it is important to note the key issues in each change perspective by the different parties involved. •Organizational development (OD) - OD is a planned, organization-wide effort to increase an organization's effectiveness and viability. Richard Beckhard feels that OD “aims at improving the effectiveness of the organization in order to help it achieve its mission (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2009) and is “long term (generally two or three years) (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2009).” BA management did try and improve the effectiveness of the organization, but failed on an “organization-wide” effort to increase effectiveness. This was because of the lack of conviction by staff that this system is ultimately better for the organization. OD focus of the change effort is changing the attitudes and behaviors of all staff. Obviously by BA staff’s reactions, this was disregarded. •Sense-making – This is where people give meaning to experience. This draw on the interpreter image, which is when a change manager creates meaning for other organizational members, helping them make sense of various organizational events and actions (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2009). Karl Weick argues these three assumptions: oAssumption of inertia – planned, intended change is necessary. However Weick suggests that the central role given to inertia is misplaced and results are a focus on structure rather than a focus on the processes through which organizational work occurs (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2009). oAssumption is that a standardized change program is needed – This assumption fails to recognize drivers of organizational change (animation, direction, paying attention and updating, and respectful, candid interaction). These drivers are sense-making perspectives that assume, “that change engages efforts to make sense of events that don’t fit together (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2009).” oAssumption is that of unfreezing – organizations suffer from inertia and need to be “unfrozen.” Yet it may already be unfrozen because change is continuous and emergent. If they try to unfreeze more, it could disrupt what is already working. Sense-making in the wildcat strike didn’t help its staff give meaning to the new swipe card system. The union felt that it was a lack of adequate consultation with affected staff that was a reason for the strike. •Change Management (CM) – CM is a structured approach to shifting/transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. CM uses the director image, which is based on an image of management as control and outcomes being achievable (Palmer, Dunford, & Akin, 2009). There are many models that can be used, but they commonly focus on achievable large-scale, transformational change. Goshal and Bartlett...
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