Case Study: Changing the Culture at British Airways


This case study informs the readers about an overview of the history of British Airways (Jick & Maury, 2011). British Airways came into being in 1971 after the signing of the Civil Aviation Act. Before it was a private company. After the signing of the Act, many companies merged and made a big company called British Airways. From the start of its formation, British Airways has problems that existed at many levels. For example there were many redundant employees who had no place to work in the. There was a pressure to let them go which would have added to an unemployment of these employees and may be legal steps taken by these employees against British Airways. British airways had poor customer services and had less returning customers. The leadership of the company was really disappointed in the performance of the company and this lack of interest and hope was also reflected in the behavior of the lower staff who did not take keen interest in their duties. This case study is about how the organizational culture at British Airways changed and it became a successful airway company in the world.

Problems and issues

As I earlier said that British Airways had a multifold of problems. If we start to analyze the problems, I would prioritize the lack of leadership as my first choice to have caused most of the problems at British Airways. Leaders have the responsibility to implement changes (Hall & Hord, 2006).  But in the case under discussion, the leadership had become a part of the problem instead of becoming a driving force for change and solution. In my opinion, British Airways was in a great need for a change in the leadership at the company. They needed fresh and enthusiastic leadership who were ready to implement drastic changes.

The second issue that I was able to identify is the problem with the bad customer services. The customer services are a face of a company which is used as an indicator of the overall quality of the service a company provides. Customer services representatives should be able to balance the perception and expectations of a customer regarding a company (Zeithaml, Parasuraman, & Berry, 1990). The customer services at British Airways was unable to satisfy the customers and hence there was a lower number of loyal customers.

The presence of staff more than what was required was also an issue. It was a pressure on the financial resources of the company. But letting them off just like that was not what high standards of business ethics suggest.

The Change Process

John King joined British Airways as a CEO in 1981 when it was an inefficient company. This proved to be the leadership change that British Airways desperately needed. John kind did not take long to identify that there were many employees who were paid salaries and had no function to perform. There was a greater need to address this issue that would require a solution in a manner which does not violate ethical standards and does not cause a chaos within the company in in the outside world. John King had a plan to cut of the work force by 20% within 9 months. This is no way an easy decision to make. But the leadership of John King proved effectively and strategies were adopted which made the letting off of the employees as transparent as possible. The employees who were removed from their jobs were offered severance. The severance package was so attractive that more than required number of people offered to accept the package and leave the company. Some staff members were also removed from their jobs due to their weak performance.

I personally would have also looked for new talent in the market and instead of going for a strategy that would fire people only, I would also hire new innovative staff with attractive packages who would be able to apply what they learned at their previous job at British Airways.

In the next phase of the change process, the staff was provided the necessary education and training that they desperately needed to achieve a high standard of productivity. Colin Marshal who became CEO of British Airways in 1983 had been a car salesman in his previous career. He had his primary focus on the customer services. He had a greater impact when he would guide the staff members in regards to dealing with customers as he personally had a profound knowledge and experience of customer communication. He led by example. He would not set in his office all the day. Instead he was more often seen walking around the airport terminals and discussing different issues with his employees.

Putting People First was an initiative of training programs that I believe benefitted the employees, especially the customer services related staff the most. This programs was designed to create a sense of the importance of the customers and who they should be dealt with.


The case study is a great example of how getting your doors open to change can change the conditions of your company with a rapid speed. Leadership is an important ingredient in any organization. The case study also informs us about the need for a courageous and confident leadership that is ready to take the tough decisions. Leaders should lead with example and this is what can be observed from the case study.



Hall, G. E., & Hord, S. M. (2006). Implementing change: Patterns, principles, and potholes.

Jick, T.D. and Maury, P. (2011). Managing Change: Cases and Concepts, 3rd Edition. New          York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.

Zeithaml, V. A., Parasuraman, A., & Berry, L. L. (1990). Delivering quality service: Balancing     customer perceptions and expectations. Simon and Schuster.