Southwest Airlines

Slide1How does Southwest Airlines maintain their unique Founders Culture with a large mobile workforce?

In an industry notorious for bad customer service and flight delays, Southwest Airlines shines as one of America’s most admired companies, known for its emphasis on corporate culture and customer experience. This reputation was made possible by founder Herb Kelleher’s dedication to a simple set of values that drives how the airline hires, trains and motivates employees.

When Southwest Airlines approached Dr. Dixon, they were initially concerned with how the organization would maintain their culture amidst their founder’s departure and appointment of a new CEO. mustangconsulting happily partnered with the airline to find a solution and along the way gained valuable knowledge on organizational communication and culture.

The mustangconsulting team immersed themselves in everything Southwest and held many fact-finding missions at the corporate headquarters. After reviewing the different stakeholders within the company, mustangconsulting decided the best way to understand Southwest’s culture consistency was through the airline’s most mobile employees,  flight attendants.  While the flight attendants made up a large and important part of the Southwest family, they were rarely at the corporate headquarters and thus had little time to experience the wonderful culture Herb created.

In order to better understand the flight attendants’ cultural experience, the mustangconsulting team created a survey to distribute. This was Southwest’s first company-wide employee communication survey. The mustangconsulting team experienced the lives of Southwest flight attendants as they traveled across the country to the airline’s major cities including Houston, Chicago, Oakland Ft. Lauderdale, to name a few. The team rose at 4 am in order to meet flight attendants in flight lounges at 5 am. It was here that mustangconsultants distributed the survey and experienced the Southwest culture as the flight attendants do.

After the survey was distributed, the mustangconsulting team analyzed the data collected from over 800 surveys. From this analysis, they provided Southwest Airlines with informed suggestions on how the airline could continue to grow while preserving the  culture created by their founder. Among the suggestions were ways to bolster the flight attendant’s cultural experience as they traveled around the country instead of the halls of headquarters. mustangconsulting also provided suggestions on transitioning leadership to the new CEO while respectfully maintaining Herb’s legacy. The project lasted almost two years and culminated in a final presentation to Southwest Airlines executives. As mustangconsulting’s first major corporate client, the collaboration with Southwest will always remain an important partnership for the organization.


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