A writer over at The Points Guy interviews American Airlines CEO Doug Parker. It’s a pretty soft interview but one revealing exchange took place,
TPG: If you notice something amiss in a process American can control, do you bring it up?
DP: I do, but I can’t think of a time when the answer wasn’t, “Oh, yes, we’re working on it.” … Any CEO will tell you that you may see things and question them, but you have to be very careful doing anything about it.
DP: You don’t want to change the priority of something that wasn’t a priority. You want to be careful not to have people drop what they are doing so they can take care of something you noticed.
Some might say the role of the CEO is to set priorities and ensure that the rest of the organization is aligned with the company’s mission.
However if someone tells Doug Parker they’re already aware of and addressing a problem that’s good enough for him. That makes sense if employees already have the right priorities. His answer assumes that they do – even though the airline lacks a clear mission statement to prioritize their actions. Oddly Parker has said he believes front line employees don’t understand the airline’s strategy so go figure.
Nevertheless when Parker sees something wrong he doesn’t insist that fixing the problem should be a priority – and doesn’t give them a framework within which to figure out for themselves what the right priorities are. That – along with the fact that the airline was flying its new standard coach product for about 9 months before the CEO even tried it, explains a lot about the airline. Parker impersonates a mean Boy George and Billy Ray Cyrus, though.