Posted by: Knightbird | September 2, 2011

Respect for People

As one of the Pillars for the Toyota Production System, I often think about how we accomplish this in our service population. I was having a conversation with one of my staff today and she reminded me of an incident with a major airline that serves Alaska. Three of us were on a flight from Las Vegas to Anchorage. Because of mechanical issues, which happen quite often in my experience, we sat in Las Vegas and departed almost an hour and a half later than we were supposed to. We anticipated missing our connection, so I called and changed my reservation to the last flight of the evening. As luck would have it, we landed in Seattle and I exited our flight just 3 gates away from where my original Anchorage bound flight was boarding. I ran over there and managed to get a seat and was about to board. I told the airline staff that I had 2 employees who were sitting further back in the plane and would like to get on this flight as well. They refused. Because of their performance measures for on time departures, and apparently penalties for the staff if they did not make the appointed departure time performance measure, they refused to take the extra 2 minutes to allow my staff to make it to the plane. When they were walking over, I was told to board and that I was the last one.

This airline reportedly uses lean principles to manage, but somehow they missed the respect for people pillar. The caused our late arrival in Seattle but they did not want to accommodate us because they would be inconvenienced by a slightly later departure. Now I understand that they plan for more flight time than will be needed except in the case of substantial headwinds, which we didn’t have that evening. When we leave late because it’s their fault, we are expected to endure the delay. But on the other end, because of their performance measures, we are inconvenienced.

This is the kind of situation I learn from and try to teach our staff about learning what respect for people really means.


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