Organisational Environment and Behavior

Organisational Environment and Behavior


Southwest Airline. 3

Abstract 3

Introduction. 3

Brief discussion of content 4

Discussion. 4

The company leadership. 4

Communication network. 6

Decision making. 7

Negotiation process. 8

Organizational changes. 8

Power and politics. 10

Organizational culture and innovation. 10

Goals and structure. 11

Strategy and technology. 12

Organizational design. 12

Conclusion. 13

References. 14



Southwest Airline


The aviation community has been expanding and continue to be affected by organizational behavior and environment.  This research will direct its interest and concerns in the organizational environment and behavior of the Southwest Airline. Through a thorough assessment of the Airline’s overall operation ( leadership, organizational structure, decision making, negotiation process, overview  of organization’s goals, strategy technology, design and communication network.  The evaluation of leadership and design structure of the company will be addressed in this paper and the impacts it has on the success of the company.  The organizational culture of the Southwest Airline and its organizational change are provided for in the paper and are the drive of competitiveness of the Airline.  The paper explores how the organizational environment and behavior are structured, the way they influence the current, past and future success of the Airline.


The southwest airline company which operates as Southwest Airline is based in the Dallas city in Texas in the USA (Freiberg & Freiberg, 1996).  The company is believed to be the largest low cost carrier in the world and thus being classified under the major carrier group.  The company traces its roots in the year 1967, when it was first established and later adopted its current name by the year 1971.  To date, the company boasts of being the most carriers of domestic passengers in the USA with a considerable number of employees who facilitate its operation.  The company mainly operates the Boeing 737s and to a smaller extend the 727s.  The company also is a leading operator of the Boeing 737s in the world, operating six flights daily on average.

The company operates, on daily basis, over 3400 flights  in over 78 destinations worldwide and has an employee base of about 46,000. The company has over time partnered and integrated with a number of airlines globally with the aim of increasing its operation base and serving its clients effectively.

Brief discussion of content

The paper will have the following outline of the content: introduction that gives an overview of  the company, the body that will explore the organizational behavior and environment including design, structure, leadership, organizational culture, goals and strategy of the Airline, communication network, innovation and politics. This paper will explore the way these environments and behavior are utilized at the Southwest Airline.  The paper will end with a brief conclusion on the Southwest organizational behavior and the environment.


The company leadership

Being one of the most successful airlines in the world, southwest airline company has a functional leadership structure. The leadership is leadership by example where all people should be aware of  their responsibilities and enhance team environment.  The leadership or organizational structure of the southwest airline is on three levels of management.  The leadership is founded on the pillars of reliability, quality, action, feedback and informal communication. The leadership levels include the senior management, middle level management and the lower level management.

The company is headed by the president who is the CEO of the company and is currently headed by Gary.  The president of the company then is followed by six senior executives who include the chief people and administration, chief legal and regulatory officer, chief operations officer, chief marketing officer, chief finance officer, chief technology officer.  This level management is functionally oriented who then delegates duties to the lower middle level of management.  The middle level leadership has positions such as senior vice president customer relations, operations, culture and communication, planning, controlling, revenue management and sales and distribution.

The lower leadership in the management structure of Southwest takes the title of vice president.  The title is given with respect to the functional role one plays in the structure of leadership.  These leadership positions include communication and strategic outreach vice president, vice president in charge of ground operations, vice president flight operations and vice president people.

This leadership style lays little emphasis on the formal structures of leadership and insist on leadership that has a combination of responsibility and humour.  This makes the employees to be free and thus motivated to provide quality performance for the company.  The fact that leadership meetings involving the management are taped and is shared with the employees, shows the extend of informal leadership at the company.

Conclusively, the leadership structure of southwest airline is a functional style of leadership.  This implies that the senior level management controls the operation of the airline completely. The functional type of leadership experienced in the company provides efficiency and stability, due to the fact that every person utilizes similar procedures.  The leadership style allows the company to make use of the economies of scale.  The leadership structure in a way provides its employees with a clear career path from the lower level up the senior management.  The only negative implication of this style of organizational leadership is a tendency of poor communication being felt within the departments.

Communication network

The company utilizes many modes of communication within the company and outside with the public (Gittell, 2003).  The company has an intranet communication network that is referred to as SWALife, which is the daily source of information and operation activities for its employees.  The website is designed with consistency and quality so that it serves its customers effectively.    The communication is in such a way that it has a core access point where messages are generated and distributed to its employees.

The company realizes that with a huge number of employees and the diversity of roles they perform, it would be robust to send them same messages.  This is the reason why the communication mode makes use of mobile application and bulletin boards to distribute information.  The company also uses blog posts to post on the website and hyperlinks the those posts to profile of the person communicating the message.  The communication network, SWAFLife also has a podcast, video channel and employee opinion so that the culture of the company is sustained and efficiency in information flow ensured. Video messaging to the employees is meant to give clarity to all employees.

Other forms of communication in application at the company include print magazine distributed to all employees in different locations.   Regular meetings with the chief executive officer of the airline is another way in which communication is networked and this happens more regularly.  The company uses digital Signage that provides electronic information on specific content in videos, messages and photos to its employees and advertising to the general public.  This, coupled with the use of social media in communication, has seen the company have a strong communication network that improve customer satisfaction.  Social media have facilitated the company’s reaching of influential drivers of the industry and linking with outside partners.  Internal collaboration has been effective thanks to the improved communication network.  Southwest Airline communication network not only increase employee involvement but create a smooth running of operation from top to bottom of the organizational structure.

Decision making

Southwest Airline has an effective decision making structure that ensures quality of service to customers, company pride and company culture.  The decision making process at the company is made by both the workers and the management teams (Hahn, 2007).  The company has the organizational structure in which crucial and complex decisions are made by the upper management teams then implemented by the workers on the ground.  This may involve decisions a regarding finances, profitability, growth, partnership and acquisition.

On the other hand there are decisions that are made by workers on the ground which do not require senior level management involvement or time limit.  Employees at the company are encouraged to make decisions on their own responsibly since this is important in the operation of the company activities.  Workers are given authority to individually decide on some situations involving activities at the company.  This implies that workers become motivated to work since they are regarded as part of the company and involved in the decision making process.

The input of workers in the formulation and implementation of Southwest’s procedures and policies is not only encouraged , but also highly regarded.  This ensures that the employees implement policies that they are part of thus effectively delivering their service to the company.  All decisions made by the company are supposed to conform with the company’s commitment to integrity and honesty values.  This ensures that the company is not entangled in legal issues with society and maintain its reputation in the public image.  The decision making process is also made in such a way to have focused on family of the workers.  The company regards family so highly that every decision especially that which affects employees have to involve families.

Negotiation process

Southwest airline has a provision for a negotiating committee that facilitates negotiation on behalf of the company.  The committee is the sole source of negotiating power for the company and this was evident in the negotiation to acquire AirTran Airine.  The negotiation process includes voting of the parties involved so that the voice of the two parties involved are heard.  The process is integrated so that the seniority negotiation and lower negotiating teams are integrated.

Organizational changes

The company has undergone many changes in the course of its operation.  Having been established in 1967 as Air Southwest, it changed its name to Southwest Airline later.  The company has changed and evolved from a simple carrier operating in Texas to a largest low cost carrier in the world (Richman Cloninger, $ Rospenda, 2008).

Change is not an easy task to implement especially for a major company operating in a competitive business like the airline industry (Scott, 2003).  Things are made worse in turbulent economic times where changes in profitability and annual financial reports are affected negatively.  The company is a public traded organization which has been able to thrive in hard economic times such as terrorism and recession. Global meltdown continues to affect many business thus needing government bailout, but Southwest has survived this due to a culture of honesty and trust on the part of its employees, effective transformational leadership, proactive responses in cases of emerging trends and calculated downsizing that does not have massive layoffs.

The company has changed operations over time and continue to do this in lieu of addressing global trends, problems and issues faced especially in hard economic times.  The adaptive and creative approaches of organizational change, utilized by the airline helps it to maintain its competitiveness in the airline industry.  The values and culture experienced in the process of organizational change is one that is globally admired.  The company has utilized this to become the most profitable airline.  The company has grown to provide employment to many people and increase its aircraft population.

The company recently changed its organizational structure after acquiring the AirTran Airways (Southwest Airlines 2008).  There is thus a new combined leadership that amalgamates the original leadership and the new found partnership.  This implies that in the near future the integration will lead to the company being one airline. This will allow the organization to expand to more destinations in the world and increase its client base, revenue, efficiency and profitability.

Power and politics

Power and politics are favorable for the growth of Southwest Airline.  The government deregulation of the airline industry.  The deregulation meant that barriers for airlines controlled by the federal government were lowered thus funding the airline. This was the biggest political victory of the company which has enjoyed profitability success to date.  It gave the airline an opportunity to rapidly grow and be competitive.  The government helps the airlines in case of bankruptcy according to the regulation.  Legal implications have seen the company beat them like the 9/11 and recover its glory.  The power bestowed by the company on its employees is a legitimate one in which managers utilize to help facilitate the operation of the company.

Organizational culture and innovation

Strong close relationship is the fundamental focus of organizational culture at southwest airline.  Competency helps the company to sustain the organizational culture through shared knowledge, mutual respect and shared goals.  The culture has been that employees embrace the connection with each other that facilitates coordination and makes them to perform effectively in all their functions.  The company embraces and fosters individuality, empowerment and fun of its employees and trusts them.  This organizational culture depicted at the Southwest makes the company an industry leader as employees feel a sense of belonging.  The culture motivates the employees to perform beyond their responsibility in the best interest of the organization.  A culture of shared knowledge enables workers to be competent, well coordinated and efficient than the company”s competitors.

Innovation is important to the growth of the company.  At the Southwest, employees are encouraged to come up with innovative ways so that the company becomes competitive (Manning, 2000). New innovation in all fields is utilized in expanding the Airline and projection of profitability.

Organizational leadership culture at Southwest recognizes that leadership takes place at any level of the company.  Leadership in the Southwest is at the forefront so that it plays a key role in the success of the company.  This is the reason why  the company has most of supervisors than any airline in the world.  The supervisors in the company in keeping with organizational culture, play a crucial role in strengthening cooperation and coordination of other employees through participation and coaching.  So that the equality factor of culture is ensured, supervisors in the company view their fellow employees as crucial internal customers that require help in performing their duties (McCartin, 2006).

Goals and structure

The goals of the company include ensuring that its customers receive the highest service quality both on the ground and in the air.  The company also aspires to assist its customers under any conditions or circumstances so that they attract and retain customers. The other goal of the company is to ensure safe travel of passengers from point A to B.  The crucial goal that the company wants to sustain is to be  and stay as the most successful low cost carrier with high frequency.   These goals motivate the company with the help of its dedicated employees to perform even better in a tricky industry such as an airline.

The organizational structure of Southwest is a complex one that determines the culture of the organization.  The structure of authority, communication, marketing and product division continue to expand as the company expands.  Therefore the company has a hybrid, multi-divisional and complex structure that is centered on customer relations

Strategy and technology

Technology has increasingly advanced and changed the way companies operate.  Southwest Airline has utilized technology in its operation such as converting to e-ticketing and self checking system.  Booking of the airline services is done online therefore improving on efficiency.

The strategies of Southwest include market penetration where the company studies the weakness of new entrants before penetrating in such a market (West, 2005).  They also strategies to encourage current customers to purchase more so that they get company benefits.  The other strategy is product development through seeking new distribution channels.  The market development strategy allows the company to offer special packages for first customers and get new customer groups. Diversification has seen the company go for other international services and luring activities.

Organizational design

An organization’s culture is determined by the design behind the company’s operation.  It is a role that requires management to offer a balance between internal and external pressures.  The design of the organization in Southwest allows employees to respond to the internal and external environment differently (Jones, 2007).  The mission statement is the direct design that is divided so that it explains what the customer expects and what the employees expect.  This allows quality service.  Strategic leadership in Southwest design is rational so that effective management of people is ensured. Southwest Airline has a culture design that reflects the behavior of its employees.  This makes satisfaction of the customer, a top priority.  The business model and culture design make the Airline to be admired worldwide and many competitors try hard to emulate the company.

The job design of the Southwest is in such a way that diversity and promotion of creativity are well defined.  This helps in addressing job methodologies, responsibilities and the department in which the work is accomplished.  In job design, Southwest Airline is always involved and recognizes that employees are crucial to organizational success.  Women and minority, supplier diversity, creating awareness, training and appreciation are some of the job design of the company.  These organizational design help foster the airlines success.


Conclusively, Southwest Airline has thrived and continue to profit due to effective application of organizational behavior and environment.   The company has an organizational structure and culture that is admired by many people and companies globally. Southwest depicts that the organizational environment is affected and influenced by the behavior of people in an organization.



Freiberg, K. & Freiberg, J. (1996) Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success. New York: Broadway.

Gittell, H. (2003). The Southwest Airlines Way: Using Power of Relationships to Achieve High Performance. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hahn, M. (2007). Administrative theory.

Jones, G. (2007). Organizational Theory, Design, and Change (5th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Manning, J. (2000). The Air Traffic controller’s strike. Supreme Court Review 223-235

McCartin, J.  (2006). A Historian’s Perspective on the PATCO Strike, Its Legacy, and Lessons. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 18 (3), 215-222.

Richman, J., Cloninger, L., & Rospenda, K. (2008). Macrolevel stressors, terrorism, and mental health outcomes: Broadening the stress paradigm. American Journal of Public Health, 98 (2), 323-9.

Scott, W. (2003). Organizations: Rational, natural, and open systems (5th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Southwest Airlines. (2008). History. Retrieved.

West, G. (2005). Lessons in Loyalty: How Southwest Airlines Does It – An Insider’s View. Dallas, TX: CornerStone Leadership Institute.


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