Change How Decisions are Made

Having just inked another major contract with a global company owned by one person, I am once again reminded that it is always easier to deal with one strong leader, a decision maker, than with a bloated bureaucracy.

To take on an entity trapped by its own – often misplaced – sense of invulnerability is a Herculean task and no matter how smart one is, the chance of success is rather limited.

Dr Jason Steffen is an example.

Some years ago, Dr Jason Steffen, an astrophysicist, came up with a way of easing congestion during aircraft boarding time.

The boarding process is bogged down by two reasons – first, passengers are often forced to wait in the aisle while those ahead of them stow their luggage, second, passengers already seated in aisle or middle seats often have to get up and move into the aisle to let others take seats nearer the window.

Dr Steffen recommends that passengers board by seat type (ie, window, middle or aisle) while also ensuring that neighbors in the boarding queue are seated in alternating rows. First, the window seats for every other row on one side of the plane are boarded. Next, alternate rows of window seats on the opposite side are boarded. Then, the window seats in the skipped rows are filled on each side. The procedure then repeats with the middle seats and the aisles.

By Dr Steffen’s calculation, his faster method of boarding planes could save airlines hundreds of millions of dollars a year since time is money. Prior research has shown that every minute a plane spends at the terminal costs US$30/-. Assuming the average carrier runs 1,500 flights a day, saving as little as six minutes per flight would add up to US$100m a year.

Presently most airlines board passengers by blocks, with passengers assigned to groups within the cabin – “we are now boarding rows blah, blah, blah to rows blah, blah, blah.”

A comparative study shows that Dr Steffen’s method reduces boarding time by half.

However, the airline industry has shown no interest in his method.

This is hardly surprising. Airlines make loads of money from first and business class passengers and other commercially important passengers for “privileges” like priority boarding. Why would they want to upset these high-end passengers by boarding them like the rest of the “monkey” or “cattle” class passengers?

So poor Dr Steffen is left with a perfect method no airline is interested in using.

Well, you can’t fight the entire airline industry! It’s a losing battle taking on leaders locked and paralyzed by a paradigm. The attitude of many such leaders is “Why fix something that’s been our standard procedure for the longest time?” They don’t even want to make any decisions requiring them to implement changes to the way things are done.

Contrast that with Mario Polegato.

This wine merchant from Italy was attending a trade event in Reno in 1995 when he took a break to go jogging. While out jogging in Reno’s hot desert climate, his feet got hot and he cut a couple of holes in the soles of his shoes with a Swiss Army knife.

He later developed the idea into a viable product.

Geox was born and today it is a global business. The paradigm that the bottoms of shoes shouldn’t have holes was broken.

It is certainly easier to mount a one-man crusade than to fight an entire industry.

As long as industry leaders’ minds are closed to new ideas, no matter how brilliant those ideas are, they will never see the light of day.

Related this are a couple of questions:

Is it worth it to continue to inconvenient one group of customers in order to make more money from another group?

In other words, would you pamper one group of customers at the expense of another group?

Another question: shouldn’t the level of service be the same whether you spend $500 or $5000?

The answer is obvious, but what happens in real life is another story.

Isn’t it?