southwest airlines organizational culture

Southwest Airlines corporate philosophy can be credited to one of the founders Herb Kelleher. It is an airline company with a unique culture “goofiness”, which keeps the morale of its employees high (Smith, 2004), and is a company that welcomes fun, dedication, and effort. Southwest believes that a happy employee will create a happy customer, and will create loyal customers. Mr. Kelleher effectively implemented its style, culture and emphasis on quality in the daily actives at Southwest (Smith, 2004), and he did so without the help of outside consultants.

The Airline was founded in 1971 by Herb Kelleher and Rollin King, and in the 1980’s nine years after Southwest was established they adopted a mission statement (Smith, 2004): “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit” (“Mission & Vision”, 2011) . This mission statement also ties to their motto “We operate with a Warrior Spirit, a Servant’s Heart, and a Fun Luving Attitude (“Mission & Vision”, 2011).

In order to accomplish this mission statement, the company is committed to their employees, by providing their employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth. Creativity and innovation are encouraged for improving the effectiveness of the airlines. Employees will especially be provided the same concern, respect, and caring attitude within the organization that they are expected to share externally with every customer (“Mission & Vision”, 2011). Based on my finding Southwest Airlines aligns their organization’s espoused values along with their enacted values, because they were developed from the leader’s values, beliefs, and assumptions about people and work (Quick, 1992). The actions of Mr. Kelleher in top management, has set the organizational norms. It can be seen in Southwest’s three values humor, altruism, and “luv’. Humor is used as one of the hiring criteria, Southwest looks for people with certain attitudes, who aren’t so tight and restrictive, but with an up-beat attitude (Quick, 1992). . Altruism is a corporate value that begins at the top and trickles downward (Quick, 1992). Southwest Airlines holds this value of great importance, because they believe in caring and giving to other people (Quick, 1992).

Communication at Southwest is a key factor for its success as a company, and will remain that way for the future. It is with effective communication that Southwest Airlines has been able to provide guidelines that their employees are able to follow. At any job, job descriptions evidently describe responsibilities between employees and departments (Smith. 2004). But at Southwest their philosophy is shared goals, shared knowledge and mutual respect, with the expectation that each person’s job includes helping fellow colleagues with their work any time necessary (Smith, 2004). Good communications skills are critical to a business’s success, and Herb Kelleher is renowned as an effective communicator and has gained the trust of his employees through the years.

Conflict is an important and useful part of communication, and can be a misconception in group communication, because it can often be viewed as bad and should be avoided. However, in the case of Southwest Airlines, it is a company who has an open door policy, “can do” and “let’s try problem solutions (Bunz & Maes, 1998). Employees are encouraged to generate ideas and then try them (Bunz & Maes, 1998). Conflict at Southwest Airlines challenges employees to research issues in greater detail, are able to learn more about issues, and enhance the openness for change and new innovations. Southwest also believes functional accountability leads to finger pointing between departments. Therefore, they utilize team metrics rather than functional metrics. Another example of how this company turns conflict into positive group communication (Smith, 2004) Conclusion

In conclusion Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher has done an excellent job at combining humor, altruism, and love. He created a positive culture and focused on people as people and identifying them as valuable assets to the company, thus making their organization and its employees more effective. The corporate culture he created is the glue that holds Southwest together (Smith, 2004), and Mr. Kelleher has been pivotal in crafting one of the most distinctive organizational cultures in United States today (Quick,
1992). Southwest airline treats their employees the way they want them to treat their customers.

Bunz, U. K., & Maes, J. D. (1998). Managing Service Quality . Business And Economics–Production of Goods And Services, 8(3), p 163-169.

Quick, J. C. (1992, Autumn). Crafting an Organization Culture: Herb’s Hand at Southwest Airlines. Organizational Dynamics, 21(2), p 45-56.

Masson & Vision. (2011). Retrieved from!/thirty-thousand-foot-view/mission-and-vision

Smith, G. (2004), ‘‘An evaluation of the corporate culture of Southwest Airlines’’, Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp. 26-33.

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