Assignment: Combined Seniority Lists
Enter the FBI ’ s efforts to modernize its infrastructure, codenamed “Trilogy.” The efforts included providing agents with 30,000 desktop PCs, high‐bandwidth networks to connect FBI locations around the world, and the VCF project to facilitate sharing of case information worldwide. The FBI Director explained to Congress that VCF would provide “an electronic means for agents to globally send fi eld notes, documents, pieces of intelligence and other evidence so they could hopefully act faster on leads.” It was designed to replace a paper‐intensive process with an electronic, Web‐based process. With such a reasonable goal, why didn ’ t it work?
■ CASE STUDY 3‐2 The FBI
In November 2011, Southwest Airlines ’ more than 6,000 pilots and AirTran Airways ’ 1,700 pilots overwhelmingly approved a plan to combine the seniority lists of the two carriers with fi ve of six pilots voting in favor. 30 The personnel sys- tems had to be modifi ed to refl ect the new seniority and pay systems.
The disparate cultures of Southwest and AirTran also posed problems for the merger of their online reservation systems and their frequent‐fl yer programs. Southwest switched from Sabre to Amadeus system to better accommodate merchandis- ing and international fl ights. AirTran ’ s reservations system vendor was Navitaire. 31 AirTran and Southwest had diametrically opposed views on distribution through online travel agencies. Southwest usually sold its tickets via telephone or through its Web site whereas AirTran preferred online reservation systems such as Orbitz and Expedia. 32 It took several years after to fi gure out how to blend the two different reservations systems. The Southwest frequent‐fl yer program was the last system to be updated to include the top customers of AirTran. In December 2014, the new merged airline was just fi nishing up the integration. Will the cultures of Southwest and AirTran come together? People are optimistic, but the real answer lies in the future.
1. Discuss the layers of culture that are evident in this case. Why do you think Southwest has preferred to grow organically over its history?
2. What are the similarities and dissimilarities between the cultures, values, and beliefs of Southwest and AirTran airlines? Where would you expect the differences to be most difficult to manage? Why?
3. What problems could arise due to the different perspectives of both airlines toward online reservation systems? What do you recommend the managers do to solve these problems?
4. What would you recommend managers to do ensure a smooth integration of the information systems given the culture differences?
30 T. Maxon , “ Southwest Airlines, AirTran Pilots Overwhelming Approve Plan to Combine Seniority Lists ,” Aviationblog, Dallas News (November 7, 2011 ), http://aviationblog.dallasnews.com/archives/mergers‐consolidation/ (accessed November 7, 2011) ; Snyder, “How the Southwest‐AirTran Merger Creates a Labor Problem.” 31 D. Schall , “ Distribution Questions Loom Following US Approval of Southwest‐AirTran Merger ,” tnooz.com (April, 27, 2011 ), http://www.tnooz. com/2011/04/27/news/distribution‐questions‐loom‐following‐us‐approval‐of‐southwest‐airtran‐merger/ (accessed April 12, 2012) . 32 J. Brancatelli , “ The Fight Stuff: Why the Airlines Are Fighting Travel Sites ,” Portfolio.com (January 5, 2011 ), http://www.portfolio.com/business‐ travel/2011/01/05/why‐legacy‐airlines‐are‐warring‐with‐expedia‐and‐orbitz/ (accessed November 7, 2011) .
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