Southwest Airlines: Recognizing management excellence in response to disaster

I have admired the management of Southwest Airlines ever since I first studied the company in 1975 as a student at Harvard Business School.  The only other U.S. airline that comes close to it in the quality of its management is Delta, which has a very different strategy and operational philosophy but which, like SWA, executes its strategy with consistent excellence.

When shrapnel (very likely a fan blade) from an uncontained engine failure pierced the fuselage of a flight from LaGuardia to Dallas Love Field, resulting in the awful, almost unimaginable death of one passenger by being partially sucked out a window and injuries to others, I feared that the sort of hysteria usually seen in the media when disaster strikes an airliner might punish Southwest's shareholders.  But in what may be an unprecedented phenomenon, after a passing dip, the share price actually went up:  

My colleague Monica Showalter, who covered financial markets for many years, commented that this is the "first time I've seen an airline's stock go up in the wake of a disaster."

Captain Tammie Jo Shults, the female pioneer of naval aviation, is properly being given credit as a hero for her calm and skillful reaction to the disaster, saving the lives of the other 148 passengers and crew.  And she deserves it.

But Southwest management has also behaved with its customary competence, quickly calling a news conference; offering condolences; and sending a disaster team to Philadelphia, where the airplane made its emergency landing.  While some are faulting the airline for not catching the metal fatigue that likely is behind the incident, the safety record of Southwest has been extraordinary: this is the very first fatality in its history.  When the investigation is complete, I have full confidence that Southwest will speedily and thoroughly implement whatever changes to its engine maintenance and inspection procedures are indicated.

Many on the left do not understand and do not want to understand the importance of capable management.  Marxists have always dismissed management as merely the exploitation of workers (as if management were not work).  To them, the people on the factory floor (they are stuck in the nineteenth century, when Marx worked) are the sole creators of value.  This misunderstanding of the role and the necessary disciplines on management is the principal reason why communist economies always fail.

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