The Power of Simple, Concrete and Consistent
The Power of Simple, Concrete and Consistent
Vision and mission statements guide most organizations and businesses. Very few, however, are backed with a set of operating guidelines that clearly spell out how they are to be lived in day-to-day activities.
Lack of these operating guidelines may be the reason why many businesses and organizations are stuck, despite having grand and compelling statements of vision and mission.
Southwest Airlines is a prime example of an organization that has profited from a set of very simple, very concrete and very consistent operating principles.
But before we take a more detailed look at Southwest, let’s take a step back and see what God’s Word has to teach us on the subject.
In Genesis 5, God warned Noah of the coming flood and the destruction that it would bring.
With that warning came a set of very specific instructions of what Noah should do in order to build the ark and preserve life. God could have given Noah a few lofty generic statements about building a boat that would transform the world, but instead He left Noah with a very clear how-to-do-it-and-why manual.
In the book of Exodus, God asked Moses and the Israelites to build a tabernacle.
Once again, instead of generic and lofty statements about the transforming power of sacrifice, God gave Moses and His people specific instructions on how to raise the funds for the tabernacle’s construction, how to build every single detail of the structure, and how to perform the various types of sacrifices and why.
Even the very life, death, and resurrection of Jesus were part of a detailed plan laid out throughout the Scriptures in over 300 specific prophecies.
There’s a lesson here: If God cares about the details, so should we.
In their book Great by Choice, Jim Collins and Morten Hansen give us important insight into Southwest’s long-term success.
The airline’s story began in 1971 with just three planes. Today, Southwest flies over 680 planes, serves over 100 million passengers a year, and employs over 45,000 men and women. Their success is largely attributed to 10 simple and specific operating principles performed consistently over the years.
A major test of their resolve occurred in 1978 when the Airline Deregulation Act unleashed unheard of competition across the U.S.
With new competition, price wars, and battles for market share, Southwest had a decision to make: Do we stick to our core operating guidelines, or do we reinvent ourselves? They decided to stick with and consistently implement those guidelines. It paid off big time.
So what were those magical 10 operating guidelines that made Southwest into the airline giant it is today? Here they are (in paraphrase):
Stick to short distances.
Use only one type of aircraft: Boeing 737.
Quick turns at the gate, 10 minutes or less.
Passengers are the #1 product, which means we don’t carry airfreight or mail.
Low fares and high frequency of service.
Stay out of food service.
Texas as #1 priority and only expand when other high-destination, short-haul markets become available.
Maintain a fun, family atmosphere.
Keep it simple (10-minute cancellation of reservations, simple computer system, no seat selection, etc.)
Over the years, Southwest’s 10 points have only changed by 20%, including adding flights longer than 2 hours, Internet booking, and interlining with Icelandair.
You see, Southwest was able to maintain their cool largely because they had clear operating principles. Many of us, when faced with drastic changes outside our control, react haphazardly because we have nothing to fall back on. We go from one strategy to another, always trying to respond to every change, every request, or every opportunity.
If that’s you today, set some time aside and get to work on your list of 10. Maybe that’s the missing link that could propel you and your work to the next level.
We’d love to hear how applying the power of Simple, Concrete and Consistent is changing the way you lead and influence others!
Megan Pacheco is the Chief Learning Office at Lead Like Jesus. Born and raised in Poland, Megan moved to the U.S. at 17 and after finishing her studies, she started work in the faith-based sector, where she has served for over 13 years. She comes with years of experience in product development, marketing and alliances and is passionate about using her God-given talents to advance the cause of Christ. Megan is a writer, and her content on issues like personal finances, money and marriage and raisingchildren have been published by More Living, Yahoo Finance, AllParenting, FoxBusiness, DailyFinance, and Crosswalk. Megan is married to David and they have two sons, Joshua (7) and Daniel (5).