So American Airlines has shown a profit for the first time in a long while. And how did the suits manage this feat? By listening to their employees. When challenged to come up with cost-cutting ideas, the workforce responded with ideas like using 1 engine instead of 2 to taxi. Another idea saved $300,000 a year by sharpening drill bits instead of replacing them.

Why do companies continue to use consultants and hire CEOs who’s claim to fame is that they can eliminate half the headcount but consistently forget to ask the people who do the job day in and day out what can be done to cut costs? We pay people to be experts but can’t seem to fathom the idea that might know how to do things better. Certainly, there’s been companies like IBM who empower their employees to innovate but for every Big Blue there’s a thousand others who manage by edict and spoonfeed the rank and file procedures and working instructions that were out of date immediately after being written.

My wife developed a “Vision Contest” at work that challenged everyone to submit ideas directly related to their job function that would save time, money, increase morale or better the relations with our customers. It has been a success for a number of years but it’s a regional program, not company wide. Instead, our “Masters In The Mountains” fund consultant studies that look great on paper but are impossible and/or dangerous to implement. Why? Because the consultants and those who commission them have lost all touch with the real-world. If it takes 2 people to comfortably perform a task, why can’t we try it with 1 or 1 1/2? (I love the discussions we have where I have to list how many people it takes to satisfy a specific function – fractions are acceptable.)

So good for you American Airlines. And good for you Jan. You’ve proven that there’s still room for common sense in today’s business world.

2 thoughts on “WHAT A NOVEL IDEA

  1. Not sure where you are getting your information, but consultants tend to be experts in a very narrow area, and are in fact a big help on the occasions where a problem exists in an organization that defies solution. On a different topic in your article, it is common these days to have an entire workforce shut down and spend a couple of hours or a whole day just coming up with ideas that improve some aspect of the business they work for. It is very effective. As for large companies being run by “suits” who know nothing about running companies, don’t know what to tell you there other than perhaps to remind people that it is the “suits” who shut down their companies so everyone can brainstorm. Perhaps it would improve things if boards of directors placed recent high school graduates at the helms of their corporations, instead of those with business degrees from Harvard and 30 years experience? (For anyone wondering, I’m an engineer, not a business manager.)

  2. My experience with consultants is first-hand. We see them everyday hired
    by companies looking to outsource their distribution to us. The Requests for
    Proposals are horribly overcomplicated, full of cookie cutter verbage (3 different
    consultants, 3 different RFPS, word-for-word requirements).

    Consultants who are tasked to look at ways to save money in a global IT setup.
    Three recommendations that, when tried, resulted in decreased service levels,
    drastically decreased system response (to the point that we were in serious danger
    of losing a major customer) and the beginnings of the wholesale departure of the
    best and brightest of our IT resources.

    I was making generalizations but when you work for a multi-national corporation and
    see memos that make no sense in your regional environment more often that you see
    the actual “suit” that’s writing them, something’s wrong.

    Not many Harvard grads with 30 years experience running around, the world is filled
    with MBA’s who couldn’t find their asses with both hands, a mirror and a map.
    And, no, that’s not a generalization.

    BTW, thanks for the comments.


Comments are closed.