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As I sit to write my regular ‘Coming up this week’ blog it is not as simple as looking in my calendar and preparing myself for what lies ahead.
Last week was a complete whirlwind – three speaking engagements, two entrepreneurial workshops and one EY entrepreneur of the year judging… which were in addition to my usual meetings and appointments. I thrive on being this busy… however, I probably could not maintain last weeks frenetic speed for more than a few weeks, and I am so grateful for weekends with family.
This week may or may not pan out how I expected. I am supposed to be in Perth in the back end of the week. I have a feeling of deja-vu.
I was working for Ansett during the pilots dispute of 1989 (which does seem so very long ago). I remember when the pilots first chose to strike (some weeks before they ultimately resigned on mass) – each day I would go to work and wonder what would happen. It was very different back then. Firstly the dispute was industry wide and the result was Australia had NO aviation industry for about nine months. (At least the other airlines are still flying.)
As I sit here and wonder what my next week will be like – I remember the feeling of “surely this will only be a few days… surely someone will see sense”.
I know Alan Joyce personally; in fact we were at Ansett together during the pilots dispute of 1989. He more than anyone knows what this means to both Qantas; as an institution and to the Australian travelling public.
Qantas’ rivals do not have the same militant unions to contend with. As an entrepreneur with a clear vision I cannot imagine how hard it must be to deliver upon the customer experience when all parties are not aligned. I have had the privilege of working with Qantas over many years with its eXcel people recognition program, as well as being a ‘peoples choice panelist’. I have experienced first hand the Qantas leaders commitment to great service through recognizing their people.
But the playing field is not level… Qantas is responsible for delivering shareholder value and as such must be competitive.  The very tragic thing is – I had believed that we as a business community had moved into a new world where all employees would align to the vision of achieving something great. It appears that nothing has changed in 20 years since I left the aviation industry out of frustration with archaic business practices.
(I had once presented to Ansett management a piece of work that had taken me months to complete – management pointed out that to achieve the service enhancement they would have to speak to 11 unions. My project was dismissed with the statement “you go and worry your pretty little head about something else.” – I was devastated at the time because I could not understand in my youthful exuberance why all employees would not be as passionate as I was about the customer experience.
I remember that very scary feeling of going to work every day ‘hoping’ that the pilots would fly again – and they never did. Surely we learned something 20 years ago.
There is no doubt that aviation must go through wholesale restructure – and that the Qantas board has known this for a long time – and now the showdown has commenced.
As a result of course – I am back to where I was 20 years ago – wondering what I will be doing this week – and ‘hoping’ the plan comes together quickly

Naomi Simson awards

Qantas eXcel Peoples Choice Award winners 2011

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