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The Power of 3 Little Words Mon 30 Oct 06

In one of my first posts I summed up what I thought was a good mission statement for IT, that is, what I thought were the keys to our success in 3 words. 

Communicate Execute Adapt

This past Friday I attended a Houston Planning Forum luncheon.  The Houston Planning Forum is a non-profit, volunteer association focused on strategy and execution.  Imagine my pleasant surprise when I noticed the cards on the table with the HPF tag line printed on them.

Strategy Execution Insight

It was also on each of their PowerPoint slides.  It truly does summarize what the HPF is about and where they focus.

As it turned out I was in for a double dose of clarity that day.  The speaker was Larry Kellner, Chairman & CEO of Continental Airlines.  In relating the story of Continental he talked about their focus on providing service that was:

Clean Safe Reliable

Again, a few simple words to focus the message.

He told of the importance of this focus when talking about how Continental went from having one of the worst performance records to one of the best.  Continental had a dismal record in on-time performance, the number of lost bags and the number of complaints being filed.  Figuring that most of the complaints were a result of their on-time performance and baggage handling they took a closer look at those two.  Further analysis revealed many of the baggage issues stemmed from planes being late and connections missed.  They determined improving on-time performance was key to improvements in all 3 areas.

They calculated the economic benefit of being in the top 5 of on-time performance.  When they divided this by the number of non-managerial employees it came to $65 per person per month. Rather than simply pocketing this, they told everyone they would pay them the $65 every month they were in the top 5 of on-time performance.  Although $65 doesn't sound like a lot, as he pointed out no one walks by 3 twenty's and five. And it totals to millions!

The results?  The next month they were number 4 in on-time performance, and the following month they were number 1!

The thing that caught my attention was when he said that although the financial incentive was important he felt that the most important factor in achieving this was sending a clear, concise, focused message on the importance of reliability:

Clean Safe Reliable

Has it continued to payoff?  For 2005 Continental was:

  • No. 1 among network peers for fewest cancellations
  • No. 1 among network peers for fewest mishandled bags
  • No. 1 among network peers for fewest customer complaints
  • No. 2 among network peers for best on-time performance

Sounds like it to me.

Communicate Execute Adapt

Strategy Execution Insight

Clean Safe Reliable

Isn't it amazing what can happen when you give people a clear message of what you expect?

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