Over at Signal Vs. Noise they’ve got an interesting little thing on airlines making small tweaks for huge impact, which reminded me of a story we heard from Southwest Airlines …
Collecting empty cups after a landing, flight attendant Rhonda Holley noticed Southwest’s logo printed on the plastic trash bag. Two things struck her – first, customers knew which airline they were on, and second, the trash bags were thrown away immediately. She wrote to Colleen Barrett, President of Southwest, to ask how much it cost to print logos on the trash bags. Her response? “Thanks – you’ve just saved us $300,000 a year. We’re not going to be printing logos on the trash bags anymore.”
Southwest often preach how it’s people are one of it’s greatest assets, and this comes from enabling their creativity ability through innovative practices. One such instance is the “Walk A Mile” program, where any employee can do someone else’s job for the day. Obviously in some instances this isn’t possible (can you imagine taking a flight with a “pilot for the day” introducing himself over the loudspeaker?) but for raising levels of co-operation, understanding and collaboration it’s proved invaluable, with 75% of Southwest’s 20,000 employees having taken part.
Cutting costs through top-down management strategies is all well and good, but when you empower your employees so they personally care about saving the company money, who knows where your next great idea will come from?