(Readers: Please note the blog about the 5th revolution in the US is constructed as a story. While not all chapters are linked, after a few recent entries, you might want to start at the beginning. More about the blog and about the author. )

Scene: Jordan and JC continuing earlier conversation.

JC: “OK, tell me the airline story. Given all the miles you’ve travelled, this must be a good one.”
Jordan: “It’s more about an organization’s culture and being fair.”
010414_1635_16TeachingS1.jpg JC: “What happened?”
Jordan: “Friday afternoon, I’m in Houston, headed back to Charlotte on USAir. Everyone boards. Then the captain announces the maintenance crew is working on the plane and it will be another 30 minutes or so. Emphasis on ‘or so.’”
JC: “Not a good start.”
Jordan: “2 to 2½ hours pass and everyone is ordered off the plane.”
JC: “No doubt you were toward the back of the plane.”
Jordan: “Yep. Huge line at the gate and only one ticket agent. So, being the genius that I am I decide to go to the ticket counter in the terminal to get help.”
USAIR JC: “So now you are back where you were three hours ago — in the terminal needing to get past security again.”
Jordan: “While in line, I call USAir 800 number and the agent arranges a flight on United. Flight leaves in about 45 minutes from the same terminal.”
JC: “And you have a new reservation number.”
Jordan: “All I have to do is go to the United kiosk, punch in the number, get a ticket and off I go. I’m a happy camper.”
JC: “So what became the problem Mister Happy Camper?”
Jordan: “The kiosk accepts the reservation number and then spits out a message, ‘See ticket agent.’”
JC: “Big line to see the agent?”
Jordan: “No. the agent is in a different terminal.”
JC: “So United has ticket kiosks and gates in this terminal…and I assume counter space…but no agents.”
Jordan: “You got it.”
JC: “So did you head out to the next terminal?”
Jordan: “No. I once again applied logic…mistakenly. I go to security and show them my boarding pass for the USAir flight and the reservation number for the United flight.”
JC: “Given this story, they must not have let you through. Why not?’
Jordan: “Because, according to TSA, the USAir flight had departed…
Mickey-Mouse-finger JC: “…even though the plane was at the gate right outside the security checkpoint.”
Jordan: “They refused to accept any type of reasoning. Nor would they even look to see if the plane was at the gate and 100 people waiting in line for help. Only comment from TSA agent, ‘You need a new ticket. Go to the other terminal.’”
JC: “Not sure if TSA has back asswards thinking or just stupid is as stupid does. You hardly fit the profile of a terrorist. Next?”
Jordan: “Off to Terminal B.”
JC: “How far is it?”
Jordan: “Half mile at least.”
united-logo JC: “Was there a shuttle close by?”
Jordan: “Train downstairs. Of course, I got to the bottom of the escalator as the train pulled out. So I walked briskly to Terminal B, found the United desk and presented my information.”
JC: “Let me guess. ‘Sorry sir, you are too late.”
Jordan: “Yes and followed by an unfriendly ‘We can’t help you. You need to go back to USAir.’”
JC: “So back down the escalator and if Murphy’s Law holds true the train was there this time.”
Jordan: “Murphy was right. ‘Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst possible time.’ Since I am now to the point where I will leave Saturday at the earliest, I don’t need to rush and then train is there.”
JC: “So back to USAir and what happens.”
Jordan: “After about 30 minutes in line I get to an agent and tell my story. She starts to write-up some information and I ask if she wants an ID?”
JC: “And…another issue?”
Jordan: “No. The only humor in the whole fiasco. She says to me, ‘No ID. No one would make up a story like that.’ She then proceeds to book a hotel.”
JC: “Decent digs?”
Jordan: “Yes, a 3-star, maybe 3½. And met a couple of other people on the shuttle who were on the flight.”
JC: “Got out OK the next day?”
Jordan: “Yes. And the night before had dinner with one of the other people on the flight. Turns out he had the same problem with United. Had a flight but the time required to get to a ticket in the other terminal caused him to miss it. He was worse off since luggage was on the canceled flight.”
JC: “USAir never unloaded the luggage?”
Jordan: “Apparently not.”
BeanCounter JC: “What I take away from this story is yet another example of bean counters looking at cost and not the customer.”
Jordan: “How so?”
JC: “USAir knew there was a serious problem with the plane at least an hour before departure. They spent that hour and another two hours trying the same fix over and over and expecting a different outcome. And Houston is not a hub so they mechanics are not as sophisticated as say in Charlotte, which is a hub.””
Jordan: “What the pilot said was the problem occurred on landing and he told the maintenance crew what the problem was. Most people in maintenance have a sense of how hard a problem is to fix…and if they are qualified to fix it. A lot of times the fix requires special equipment.”
JC: “So if the pilot identified the problem at landing, the maintenance crew should have been able to determine whether they could fix it or needed more expertise.”
Jordan: “USAir had more than enough time to call Charlotte or Phoenix or even contract another mechanic in Houston – some airline must have a hub there – and at the worst fly in a mechanic or fly in another airplane.”
JC: “USAir is bad but who really qualifies as ‘stupid is as stupid does’ is United Airlines. Having gates in one terminal and no one to help. No doubt some bean counter figured United could save a few thousand dollars per year by not having a ticket agent.”
Jordan: “The same bean counter assigns no value to customer’s time going back and forth between terminals, no cost to possible missed flights and certainly no value to customer satisfaction.”
JC: “You going to fly United any time soon?”
Jordan: “Not if I can help it. As frustrated as I was dealing with USAir, dealing with United was even more frustrating.”
JC: “The TSA agent is right up there with United in terms of not being fair. Through no fault of your own, the flight was cancelled. Through no fault of your own, United does not have a ticket agent in the terminal with the gate. In addition, you already passed security for your flight at that same TSA checkpoint. Yet they refuse to let you through security that you went through earlier.”
Jordan: “If asked, TSA would probably claim they could not let me through for reasons of national security.”
JC: “They let you through once but would not let you through again. I think that is stupid and unfair.”
Jordan: “But TSA suffers no consequence for not being fair.”
JC: “But you do and so do a lot of other people.”
Jordan: “Not to bring up General Motors again…”
JC: “…but you will.”
Jordan: “The report of why GM did not fix the ignition switch for more than 10 years indicated employees were encouraged not to bring up problems.”
Dont-Rock-the-Boat_14102010124913 JC: “Don’t rock the boat. The pressure to conform must have been intense. Knowing there was a clear safety problem and yet virtually no one openly talked about it and no one led an effort to fix it. In fact, the report said some employees hid info about the problem, even lawyers.”
Jordan: “GM was not fair to customers and not fair to employees. USAir and United…and remember ATT…were not fair to customers.”
JC: “Let’s not forget our friends as TSA.”
Jordan: “Right. Each organization fostered a culture that encouraged employees to ignore the customer, no matter how illogical or unfair the behavior.”
JC: “You have got to work with Matt and make sure a section on consequences of these type behaviors gets into the report for POTUS on rebuilding US manufacturing. I know ATT, United, USAir and TSA are services organizations, not manufacturing. But I think attitudes and cultures that evolve in manufacturing companies eventually migrate to service companies as well.”
Charles_Wilson_official_DoD_photo Jordan: “JC, I will meet Matt again. Your observations about culture in manufacturing migrating to service organizations is a good one.”
JC: “OK. So what Engine Charlie Wilson said years ago still holds true today. What’s good for General Motors is good for the country and vice versa. Say goodbye Jordan.”
Jordan: “Goodbye JC. And thanks.”

(Want a PDF version for Entries #1-10, #11-20, #21-30 formatted as an e-book? Entries #31-40 available soon. Click links for download. America’s 5th Revolution Volume I (Entries 1-10), America’s 5th Revolution Volume II (Entries 11-20), America’s 5th Revolution Volume III (Entries 21-30)