Magoosh GRE

Critical Study of the Organization behaviour at Southwest Airlines

| December 11, 2012

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According to Peter Senge (1990: 3) learning organizations are organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together. (Peter Senge 1990: 3).Due to the rapid change in the business environment, the learning organisations came into access as it has flexibility, adaptively and productivity which excels an organisation. The people in the organisation have the capacity to learn but the structures in which they operate are often not conducive to engagement and reflection. Moreover, due to lack of tools and guiding ideas in the organisation it leads to unclear image of the situation in which the people works. There is a fundamental requirement in the organisations to shift mind amongst their members for continual expanding of their capacity to create their future. When you ask people about what it is like being part of a great team, what is most striking is the meaningfulness of the experience. People talk about being part of something larger than them, of being connected, of being generative. It becomes quite clear that, for many, their experiences as part of truly great teams stand out as singular periods of life lived to the fullest. Some spend the rest of their lives looking for ways to recapture that spirit. (Senge 1990: 13) .The various aspects that differentiate learning organisations from those traditional organisations lies in Peter Senge’s Five Discipline . They are:

1) Systems thinking

2) Personal mastery

3) Mental models

4) Building shared vision

5) Team learning

Peter Senge (1990:14) says that people are agents to the structure in which they operate and they are a part of the structure. The disciplines are in this way that it ‘concerned with a shift of mind from seeing parts to seeing wholes, from seeing people as helpless reactors to seeing them as active participants in shaping their reality, from reacting to the present to creating the future’ (Senge 1990: 69). It is to the disciplines that we will now turn. (http://

1)  System Thinking- the cornerstone of the learning organization: System thinking is the Fifth Discipline amongst the Five Disciplines of Peter Senge. Systemic thinking is the conceptual cornerstone (‘The Fifth Discipline’) of his approach. It is the discipline that integrates the others, fusing them into a coherent body of theory and practice (ibid: 12). The basic tools of the system theory can build into sophisticated models as they are fairly straightforward. Peter Senge states that one of the major obstacles is that what is written and what is done in the name of the management. It means that a simplified framework is used in a complex business environment. Focusing on the business as a part rather than a whole body leads to the failure of the organization as a dynamic process.(

The five disciplines can be approached at one of three levels:

Practices: what you do.

Principles: guiding ideas and insights.

Essences: the state of being those with high levels of mastery in the discipline (Senge 1990: 373).

Each discipline provides a vital dimension. Each is necessary to the others if organizations are to ‘learn’.(

2)  Personal Mastery-  Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively’ (ibid.: 7). It goes beyond competence and skills, although it involves them. It goes beyond spiritual opening, although it involves spiritual growth (ibid.: 141). Mastery is seen as a special kind of proficiency. It is not about dominance, but rather about calling. Vision is vocation rather than simply just a good idea. People with high level of personal mastery lives in high level of continual learning. Personal mastery is not something which an individual possess but it a process. People possessing personal mastery have high level of self confidence.(

3)  Mental Models- Starts with turning the mirror inward; learning to unearth our internal pictures of the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny. It also includes the ability to carry on ‘meaningful’ conversations that balance inquiry and advocacy, where people expose their own thinking effectively and make that thinking open to the influence of others. (Senge 1990: 9). It is necessary for people to learn new skills and develop new orientations in an organization in order to develop the capacity to work with mental models. In other words it means fostering openness (Senge 1990: 273-286).(

4)  Building Shared Vision – It is one of the ideas about leadership that has inspired organizations for thousands of years. Such visions enables experimentation and innovation. Clear vision makes the people learn on their interest rather than telling them what to do. Translation of this visions into shared vision will lead to the success in achieving the long-term and short-goals of an organization.(

5)  Team Learning-Personal mastery and shared vision are not enough as it needs the people to work together in team. It will not only lead to good results for an organization but also help in rapid learning amongst the people.  It also involves learning how to recognize the patterns of interaction in teams that undermine learning. (Senge 1990: 10). Joining of dialogues with system thinking possibly creates a language which suits more for dealing with complexity, focuses on deep-seated of structural issues and forces rather than being diverted by questions of personality and leadership style. (

There is a myth in the mind of the employers that the educational qualification is enough to make an employee efficient, effective and competence. Education provides the basic cognitive skills to prepare an employee for work. In order to survive in this competitive business world, every organization needs to have their employees to be of highly polished skills and competence powers. This is where HRM steps in. Skills, knowledge and competency can only be developed through HRM. It makes the people to be more competitive as they were used to be. Training is costly as it requires arrangement of resources, staffs and many other perspectives which requires investment. For instance, a training and development programme takes place in XYZ Company. As it requires investment, there can be resistance from the different departments. This happens because the departments other than HRM are of the thought that if the training is given to achieve certain goals of the organization and the employees fail to achieve those goals, it would result in the loss of the business as the output is not equal or more than the output. On the other hand, if the employees achieve these goals it leads to the long-term benefits for the business. Improvement in the employee competency leads to increase in the corporate competitiveness which results in increasing profitability. In the view to increase the skills, efficiency, effectiveness and competence of the people in the organisation, it is necessary that the learning and development must be initiated by the HRM department. These sessions must be carefully planned and made sure that the resources are used at their best. The focus should not only be on the competence but also on the values and attitude. Learning is an initiative of change management which aims at developing employees potentials in order to add more value to the organization and the community they belonging to. (

On a global perspective for enhancing the culture of learning and development of an organisation, the HRM goes through certain critical challenging issues which play a vital role for the growth of an organisation. One of the challenges that an organisation has to deal with is the employee turnover ratio, which means to retain the resources which for certain reasons wants to leave an organisation. The HRM department finds this part being critical for small medium organisations where they have low budgets to train their current resources or hiring new resources. If an employee leaves an organisation at a certain period of time which can put that project into crucial circumstances for its survival, it’s very important either to document down everything so other resources can pick the right path of that project or to retain them so that the project survives in its best. Hiring new resources and training them again on that project includes cost and time which doesn’t goes in favor of organisation where critical deadlines have to be met. This can also leave a negative impact of job insecurity on employees that the running organisation might be going through financial problems or they don’t find any growth in their career. So another challenge for HRM is to secure their jobs by providing them chances to grow in their career. Once an employee polishes its skill more gives him more confidence to produce better output for that organisation. It’s a contribution towards promoting a learning culture in the organisation too. So HRM ensures that all the necessary ingredients should be provided for an employee to learn more by their own interest. Some organisations have a strategy of providing them a library or an environment where the interest automatically develops. It could be in sense of competition or rewards or benefits whatever motivates them to produce their better output by learning more. So training and development under low budgets can also be a challenging task for HRM as noticed that in small medium organisations usually a resource main ambition is to learn more as much as they can. And those trainings can be conducted internally as well externally. But how much budget that organisation can afford for it? Are they willing to invest on their employees in form of trainings? Is that a guarantee by training them, they won’t quit? These perspectives are being thought from an organisations end too. But Southwest airline has proved that putting trust in your employee and give them a free hand to think and logically come up with solutions to problems helped them a lot in building their culture where learning was mainly focused. Other issues like appraisal processes or motivational processes again have a vital role in the growth of an organisation which is directly linked to a psychological satisfaction. Maintaining and sustaining an equitable evaluation of performance system is a key to employee’s satisfaction for their job and its performance. The more they are satisfied towards their jobs, the more they will input their efforts. (,

Considering the brief introduction of Southwest Airlines, the HRM Models that has been implemented are strategic as well as descriptive. As we all are well known about the incident of 9/11, it shook the root of airline industry. This gave a space in the industry to bring about the necessary change required in order to survive in that period. As other airline companies were struggling to survive in the market, Southwest Airlines was the only airline to hold its boot in the industry. From the strategic point of view, it can be seen that the leadership style was tremendous. The mission of Southwest Airlines, low cost, low fare, no frills, and its dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and company spirit. The airline industry tried to cut down their expenses and marched towards the direction of continuous improvement and innovation. This brought the learning organisation into existence and soon it become very popular amongst the different industries including the airline industry. Learning organisation refers to continuous improvement and maximum utilisation of resources and this was one of the reasons that brought this concept into action. The employees in the organisation were treated in the same manner as the Southwest Airlines used to treat their customers. Creativity and innovation were given more importance than the other factors in the organization. There were lot of talks going around amongst the organisations regarding the team spirit but Southwest Airlines are the one that succeeded in achieving it. This is due to the thought amongst the strategic level that the employees come first than the customers as they are of great importance to the organisation. This shows the form of leadership style used at the strategic level which built trust, love and affection amongst its employees. As the change was took place in the organisation, the Southwest Airlines hold on with their employees rather than cutting jobs and saving cost. Infect the employees were trained in order to deliver the best customer service. The top level shared all the mission and vision of the organisation. Continuous improvement can be bought only if the information is clearly shared with the employees who help them to take punitive steps to achieve the goals of the organisation. A feeling of being a part of a big family made the employees to work for the most benefit of the organisation. The goal of profit maximization was achieved by keeping low cost and high quality of customer service. Competitors have learned from Southwest and its unique management strategies and they are using these tactics as well as unique ones to win over customer. It can also be said that the HRM model used by Southwest Airlines was SOFT HRM as it didn’t treat its employees like a resource but as human as well whereas HARD HRM treats human just like a resource.

As we can clearly see the situation of Southwest Airlines, on the other hand the current situation of the British Airways stands nowhere as compared to Southwest Airlines. In spite of the airline industry being badly hit in that time, the Southwest Airlines anyhow managed to be the best airlines and to make maximum profit. On the other hand, British Airways struggles daily with staff problems, strikes, customer complaints, inadequate in achieving company’s goal. During the ash cloud period, British Airways used to bear a loss of £20 million pounds on daily basis. Moreover, the ticket charges of British Airways are quite high as compared to Southwest Airlines. Employee’s conflict is one of the major reasons that due to which team spirit is neglected. The flow of organisation’s information and data is restricted as the strategic level feels that the company’s data should be confidential. This leads to a feeling of not being loyal and dishonest amongst the employees. Southwest did not employ the “hub-and-spoke” approach used by other major airlines, such as United, American, and Delta. Instead, its approach was short haul (average flight time was 55 minutes) and point-to-point (e.g., Dallas to Houston, Los Angeles to Phoenix). Southwest had no assigned seats, paid its crews by trip, and used less congested airports (e.g., Baltimore instead of Washington’s Dulles or Reagan; Manchester, N.H., instead of Boston, Mass.). (



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Category: Free Essays, International Relations