Southwest Airlines' Organizational Culture

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Case Details:

Case Code : HROB021
Case Length : 15 Pages
Period : 1971 - 2001
Pub Date : 2003
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : South west Airlines
Industry : Aviation
Countries : USA

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Shaping Southwest's Organizational Culture

Operational Philosophy

Southwest's objective was to provide safe, reliable and short duration air service at the lowest possible fare. With an average aircraft trip of roughly 400 miles, or a little over an hour in duration, the company had benchmarked its costs against ground transportation. Southwest focused on short-haul flying, which was expensive because planes spent more time on the ground relative to the time spent in the air, thus reducing aircraft productivity. Thus it was necessary for Southwest to have quick turnarounds of aircraft to minimize the time its aircraft spend on the ground. Southwest limited the turn time for each plane to ten minutes or less. It has managed to limit airplanes' turn time to (about 20-25 minutes) over the years (Refer Table II.)...

Human Resource and Organization Behavior | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Human Resource and Organization Behavior, Case Studies


Southwest's organizational culture was shaped by Kelleher's leadership. Kelleher's personality had a strong influence on the culture of Southwest, which epitomized his spontaneity, energy and competitiveness. Southwest's culture had three themes: love, fun and efficiency. Kelleher treated all the employees as a "lovely and loving family". Kelleher knew the names of most employees and insisted that they referred to him as Herb or Herbie. Kelleher's personality charmed workers and they reciprocated with loyalty and dedication. Friendliness and familiarity also characterized the company's relationships with its customers...

Building Relationships

Since its inception, Southwest attempted to promote a close-knit, supportive and enduring family-like culture The company initiated various measures to foster intimacy and informality among employees. Southwest encouraged its people to conduct business in a loving manner. Employees were expected to care about people and act in ways that affirmed their dignity and worth. Instead of decorating the wall of its headquarters with paintings, the company hung photographs of its employees taking part at company events, news clippings, letters, articles and advertisements.

Colleen Barrett sent cards to all employees on their birthdays...

Excerpts Contd...>>


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