Leading by Leveraging Culture

7456 Words30 Pages
02-088 Leading by Leveraging Culture Jennifer A. Chatman1 Sandra E. Cha 1 The first author wrote this chapter while a Marvin Bower Fellow at the Harvard Business School, and is grateful for their support. Copyright © 2002 by Jennifer A. Chatman and Sandra E. Cha Working papers are in draft form. This working paper is distributed for purposes of comment and discussion only. It may not be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Copies of working papers are available from the author. Leading by Leveraging Culture Jennifer A. Chatman1 Haas School of Business University of California Berkeley, CA 94720-1900 chatman@haas.berkeley.edu And Sandra E. Cha Harvard Business School Soldiers Field, Sherman Hall 102 Harvard…show more content…
And yet, Southwest has been the only U.S. airline to be profitable for 28 consecutive years (Laing, 2001). One key to Southwest’s success is its remarkably short turnaround time, 15 minutes versus competitors’ average of 35 minutes (O’Reilly & Pfeffer, 1995). Planes don’t sit long at the jet way. Instead, employees across functional lines band together to get the planes out quickly, despite being 89% unionized. This results in an average plane utilization of around 12 hours at Southwest versus the industry average of closer to 9 hours. Southwest’s success hinges not on how brilliant, unique, or opaque their strategy is, but on the alignment between their culture and strategy, and how clearly employees understand, and intensely they feel, about the culture. Strong cultures enhance organizational performance in two ways. First, they improve performance by energizing employees – appealing to their higher ideals and values, and rallying them around a set of meaningful, unified goals. Such ideals excite employee commitment and effort because they are inherently engaging (Walton, 1980), and fill voids in identity and meaning that some believe; characterize contemporary Western society (Baumeister, 1998). Second, strong cultures boost performance by shaping and coordinating employees’ behavior. Stated values and norms focus employees’ attention on organizational priorities that then guide their behavior and
Get Access