Strategic and Incremental Change

Todd Jick’s case study describes the crisis of 1981. British Airways’ (BA’s) successful response in the 1980s was revolutionary in nature. During that period, BA revolutionized its culture and its view of the customer with outstanding results. In the 1990s, BA entered a period of slow decline as the systems and structures at BA became increasingly incongruent with the new deregulated environment and the successful competitors that were spawned by that environment.

Major upheavals in international travel pushed BA into a reactive mode following 9/11, and the results of management’s attempts to develop new strategies were unclear for a considerable period. A strike in the summer of 2003 created more uncertainty for the firm.94

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The dramatic rise in oil costs during 2007 and 2008 forced BA to cut costs and implement a merger with Iberia. These strategic moves to cut costs were matched by more incremental internal actions to limit the wages of cabin staff to match those of its competitors. These changes led to limited strike action in 2010 and a negotiated resolution in 2011, which was facilitated by the arrival of new chief negotiators on both sides—Keith Williams, BA’s new president, and Len McCluskey, the union’s new general secretary. Fleet renewal (their first Airbus A380 was put into service in 2013), along with ongoing changes to systems, processes, and procedures were undertaken in and around that time.

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