Analysis Into Southwest Airlines Achievements

Southwest Airlines has been a successful airline company since 1971 (Wharton 2008). Southwest Airlines has been profitable since 1973, despite the slow economy and rising fuel prices. Southwest has grown from humble beginnings to include 34,000 employees who fly to more than 600 different cities each week (CBS News 2007, 2007).

Southwest vs. Competitors. Southwest believes that the key to their success is in the people and their business model. These attributes allow them compete with three of their major competitors: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Jet Blue Airways. (Hoover’s Inc. Southwest is different from their competitors who value the customer more than the employee. Southwest Airlines believes that employees will respond to customer service if they are treated with respect. Customers who are happy become repeat customers and happy shareholders (Wharton 2008. Southwest believes this business model will lead to inexhaustible success. Southwest has not been laid off since their 1971 opening. CBS News, 2007, p. 107. Southwest is indeed “one of industry’s highest-paid and most unionized airlines” (CBS News). Their innovative business model, employee appreciation, and superior customer service are just a few of the things that make Southwest stand out from the rest. Southwest Airlines’ average turnaround time is only twenty-three minutes. Southwest Airlines has been able to eliminate reserved seating due to the caring attitude of its pilots and flight attendants. Southwest Airlines’ customers will be more happy to travel with them because they offer a more welcoming and friendly environment.

Southwest Airlines, a company of immense size, requires that the entire organization is under control. Southwest uses a functional organization structure for organizational control. This structure allows top management to make all the decisions and maintain control (Liu 2012).

Southwest’s second strategy is to foster a sense community (Wharton (2008) Southwest Airlines President Colleen Barrett is well-known for referring to Southwest’s family-like atmosphere. This allows employees freedom. The employees will be more inclined to respect authority and follow the guidelines if they feel loved and cared for.

Southwest Airline’s third method of controlling organizational behavior is extraordinary employee training (Wharton, 2008). Employee training is an effective and old method of controlling organizational behavior. The training is gradual and employees are able to adapt to their new role. This reduces the stress on both employees as well as management. Management is confident that employees will be able to perform their tasks without any supervision once training has been completed.

Although they may not seem obvious, controlling and organizing go hand-in–hand, even though they may be different things. Organizing means to find the best uses of resources within a management structure (Dutton). To put it simply, the management of a company must organize them so that they can generate some kind of benefit for them. The management has control to enable them to evaluate the performance of all employees (Dutton). Organizations cannot exist without control. Management must have complete control over employees to ensure organization. Otherwise, chaos and disorder will reign. The organization of employees and resources can be managed by a corporation once they have control of the company. This makes managing any business much easier.

Southwest Airlines uses many methods to measure employee performance. Some methods are more unusual than others. I interviewed three people to find out how their managers monitor employee performance at work.

My first participant, a 20-year-old male, is a designer at an international oil company. When asked about his monitoring system, he replied that he had an employee performance management system. This means that he has to set goals that are aligned with both the company’s and department goals. I must also state my career goals. He agreed to the interview. He seemed to have a very open workplace. His boss will be happy if he does his job on time.

My second participant was a 18-year-old female who works at the local gas station. When asked about her supervisors, she said that both her and her managers monitored her performance. They put in the same amount of work as we do, but if they don’t have the same level of focus they will take over the work. Each shift’s manager will give an informal assessment at the end. “Basically, she tells us how we did that day. Or if there are things we can improve upon.” I was a bit confused when she agreed to interview me. I felt that she was not a person who talked about work often with her friends.

My third participant, a twenty-two-year-old male, was a cook at a local diner. He laughed when asked how his boss monitored him. He is watching over us from his office, even when he (owner), are not there to help us. It is really unpleasant. Time cards are also kept close to our eyes. He seemed to be comfortable during the interview. He was open and honest about his feelings, even if he had to vent.

Employees seem to enjoy having their managers be more hands-off, and expecting them to be more self-reliant. I was able to observe how a more friendly and quirky work environment can reduce stress levels and create a more productive business. Employees value independence and trust in their managers.


  • owengriffiths

    Owen Griffiths is 35 years old and a blogger and teacher. He has written about education for over 10 years and has a passion for helping others learn.