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a thousand others who manage by edict and spoonfeed the rank and file procedures and working instructions that were out of date immediately after being written.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.