Implementing Change: Change Management – The British Airways Swipe Card Debacle

This paper discusses change management case study where it reviews the British Airways swipe card debacle story and draws on change perspectives such as organizational development, sense-making, change management, contingency, and processual approaches. The case background of the story entails a 24-hour wildcat strike, which occurred on Friday-the 18th of July 2003 at 4pm. This issue affected terminal 1 and terminal 4 at London’s Heathrow Airport where 250 check-in staff at British Airways (BA) put down their tools in protest of the company’s decision to introduce the swipe card system without having sought for their opinion on the issue (Dunford, Akin, & Palmer, 2008). It is worth noting that this strike occurred at a critical moment that marked the beginning of a peak holiday season during the weekend causing a lot of chaos at the Heathrow. This strike that was based on the introduction of the swipe card system led to grounding of more than sixty flights, more than 10,000 passengers being left stranded, and more than 40 million pound loss for the company as well as negative impression on its reputation. As a way of managing the situation, BA displayed a number of actions that comprised its response: it made announcement and apologized for the disruption; cancelled all its flights; established tents to offer refreshments; and engaged the police for proper management of the crowd.

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For each change perspective, there are several issues that require consideration in order to understand the wildcat strike. In regard to organizational development change perspective, the issues that required consideration include BA’s one-sided decision making. Also, there was forced imposition that occurred within five days of the notice. The timing was, also, wrong for the organization considering that the imposition was made during the busiest quarters of the season. In considering the perspective of sense-making, some of the issues include lack of realization that the move could be interpreted as manipulation of employees’ working pattern. Besides, timing being incorrect, there was, also, lack of awareness about the key element. The company did not evaluate the various alternatives and, therefore, could not predict employees’ reaction to its decision to implement the swipe card system. In regard to the perspective of change management, some of the system that required consideration included: employee fears in regard to the swipe card system; lack of timely communication of such a vision; lack of tactical actions in case of an emergency such as this one; and underestimation of the resulting organizational dissatisfaction (Dunford etal. 2008). In regard to the perspective of contingency, it is clear that there was no plan that the decision to implement the swipe card system could influence employees to go on a strike. In regard to the perspective of processual, there was no communication between the company and the political group. The company, therefore, failed to understand the manner in which the intended change could affect the families of its employees.

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The roles of a change consultant can assist the company to avoid such a situation in various ways. In the perspective of organization development, the solution would be proper dissemination of information. Besides, the BA workers should be the first ones to receive the information regarding any change in the company. Participation of workers is essential for influencing their attitude as well as behavior. In regard to sense-making perspective, the change consultant should emphasize the significance of listening to employees. Besides, there will be emphasis about awareness regarding the key elements. In regard contingency perspective, the change consultant may advise BA to replace the striking employees by hiring permanent strikebreakers. Can, also, advise BA to hire labor management consultants to deal with subsequent union drives. In regard to change management perspective, the change consultant may advise BA to prioritize any essential elements and, also, take time to evaluate issues before implementing a quick change. In terms of processual perspective, the change consultant should advise BA to undertake a methodological study of employee decision making process in order to understand internal company politics. The company should, also, consider implementing small scale changes over time.

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There is a change perspective, or even a combination of change perspectives that can provide the best way to understand the swipe card issue. However, a combination of change perspectives is the most appropriate approach. This is because the most significant thing would be problem solving and finding solutions to the current stalemate. Most significantly, also, is because there is no inclusion of personal or political skill in the whole event.

In conclusion, there is need for BA, or any company to appreciate the significance of proper communication. The company should, also, consider adopting new strategies regarding implementation of change management. The company, also, requires performing more analysis ahead of introducing any change. It is clear that low morale on the side of employees arise especially whenever there is a disconnection between them and the management. Finally, such substantial changes should be effected during low peak season.

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