by Mark Chillingworth

BA strikers need to think of succession plans, like CIOs do

Mar 28, 2011
IT Leadership

It is becoming part of the calendar, the clocks change, the days are lighter and British Airways (BA) cabin crew announce a strike for Easter. You cannot help but be cynical about the timing of these things. Just like the people who always fall sick on a nice day, it seems BA cabin crews need to strike when the weather’s at its best. What bothers me most is that these serial-strikers are damaging the future careers of our younger generations. Good CIOs build an IT strategy, platform and succession planthat will take the organisation and therefore their team forwards should they shuffle off the mortal coil or leave. There are few, if any CIOs that build systems that cannot operate without them. CIOs go to great lengths to describe to this title the strength and depths of their teams. Others talk with pride about previous employers still using the IT foundations they put in place and they wish the firm well. As a result the organisations continue to thrive and provide much needed employment. I know my teamwill carry on driving the high editorial and community standards of CIO forwards if I end up under a bus.  As with many CIOs, I feel I owe it to the job to ensure journalism has a future, despite the best efforts of our less able and talented peers.  But looking at the continuing BA saga leads me to think that a succession plan is something all of us as employees need to be aware of and working to sustain. In today’s globalised and competitive business landscape where employment is fickle we owe it to our children to ensure organisations survive and offer opportunities. I haven’t travelled on BAfor over seven years now because I feel I cannot trust them. This is not an uncommon behaviour towards the airline. With VAT hurting people’s financial viability; travel for work or pleasure needs to be reliable and the striking cabin crews ensure that travelling with BA is far from that. As a result BA is losing custom to airlines such as Virgin, Emirates and Easyjet. There is a precedent in this green and pleasant land too. In Birmingham today sits an empty site that was once the hub of our national car manufacturing business. British Leyland, as the national firm became known, had a history of strikes which led to a decade of poor quality products, lost sales and brand value. Many of the brands, like Rover and MG were once premium products. By the mid-1990s, now named Rover Group the company was manufacturing good quality products, but the damage was done. The brand never recovered, sales continued to fall and meddling by politicians in the sale to wrong buyer didn’t help. Those striking British Leyland workers had no succession plan for their children and grandchildren. Now Birmingham continues to struggle to offer good manufacturing jobs to its community and the cities heritage in the car industry is in tatters. Striking cabin crews at BA need to think of the future and whether they want BA to go the same way as our mass car manufacturing. All parts of the travel industry are involved in an uphill struggle against a changing market. The CIO of TUI Travel specialist divisionrecently shared with CIO just how challenging the industry is, and today rivals Thomas Cook announced a £20m hit to its revenues from the unrest in North Africa. Having a succession plan for the BA businessis not just the responsibility of the striking cabin crews, shareholders in the airline too need to think of its longer term future, not just their dividend. We have a short-sighted government in power at the moment, our workers and major companies need to look at the longer term picture.