Look at the Root Cause, NWA Management


    NWA puts an emphasis on service

    I saw this article in the Detroit paper when connecting on a Northwest Airlines flight today. My flight crews were both professional — in spite of the way management has treated them over the years.

    This is comical, the progression NWA has gone through:

    1. Treat employees badly, including slashing pay while giving huge bonuses to the execs
    2. Blame the employees for not having good attitudes
    3. Institute customer service training

    Wow. How about they just skip steps 1 and 2? Nope, too late. How can managers be so insulting to their employees? Why do the managers think customer service has been bad?

    One NWA employee put it perfectly:

    “We all love our jobs. It's just that we've been beaten down a little bit,” Palmer said, citing the double-digit pay cuts and stress that employees endured during the airline's 20-month bankruptcy.

    It's not just airlines. If managers would quit demotivating employees, couldn't they avoid all of this mess?

    This scores very low on the “respect for people” scale, eh? You can see why Toyota and Lean advocates emphasize the respect for people as the key to quality and employee satisfaction.

    The chairman of the airline said:

    Roy Bostock, Northwest's new board chairman, said he wants to create a better environment for Northwest's employees and customers and develop more sophisticated techniques for measuring customer experiences.

    “I want these folks to know that this board of directors cares about them and is hell-bent on changing this culture and changing the attitudes in this company to make it more productive for everyone,” Bostock said in a late August interview.

    Well, isn't that special? Maybe Bostock should get some training for top executives, instead. “How to not beat down on your employees” is a good title for a course, don't you think?

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. I like the double meanijng of your headline. 1) look at the problem (addressing management) and 2) look at the problem, it IS management.


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