Doing Right vs Doing It Right

It seems that not a day goes by without our reading about someone getting caught in the processes of a system – aggreged not (necessarily) by nefarious intent, but by a process that didn’t take into consideration some set of circumstances.  Sometimes, the angst endured is amplified by the subsequent processes initiated in a chain of events.

Take the situation of Dr. David Dao who, on April 9th 2017, was supposed to fly from Chicago to Louisville on United Flight 3411.  Dr. Dao had been issued a boarding pass, was checked-in and seated in his assigned seat.  United needed to make room for some flight crew required in Louisville to man a flight originating from there and asked for volunteers to give-up their seats (with compensation for the inconvenience).  When not enough volunteers came forward, United decided to select passengers (based on a predetermined algorithm) and involuntarily “re-accommodate” them (bump them against their will).

Dr. Dao was one of the ones selected, but he refused to go.  This caused the United crew to seek assistance in his being “deplaned” (removed) from the authorities at the airport, one of whom decided the use of brute force in removing Dr. Dao was justified.

Fortunately for Dr. Dao, and less fortunate for others, the episode was recorded.

The result of the incident was a mess; Dr. Dao suffered considerable physical harm, United spiraled into a public relations nightmare (made worse by the callous non-apology from United CEO Oscar Munoz), and the suspension of three officers from the Chicago Department of Aviation.

This is an event that absolutely did not need to happen.

Certainly, Dr. Dao could have complied with his being selected for involuntary “re-accommodation”, and what followed would not have occurred.  However, Dr. Dao was not “bumped”.  He already had his seat assignment and was seated in it.  If he had checked luggage, it would have already been in the cargo hold.  He felt he was in the right and, for whatever reason, he did not want to leave.

The United crew did not do all it could to encourage volunteers, stopping at a compensation level of $1,000 when the “ceiling” for such compensation is $1,350.  Why didn’t they go to the limit?  In fact, why couldn’t they go beyond until an attractive enough number was reached?

Some argue that it was not a “United Crew”, but actually an airline called “Republic Airlines” doing business as United Express.  To me, this is a non-argument.  If you are flying the United flag, then you are United – period.

And the authorities who were called did not have to use the amount of brute force that they did in removing Dr. Dao from the aircraft.  Dr. Dao was not being physically aggressive, he was just protesting his being selected for “re-accommodation.”  The officers claim he was being “belligerent” (read: verbally “protesting” his being selected).  When did merely arguing or verbally protesting some injustice (real or perceived) become a threat large enough to warrant such a disproportionate physical response?  Evidently, the authorities thought this was cause enough to open a can of whoop-ass on Dr. Dao.  Well, it’s not…

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Joseph Paris
Joseph F. Paris Jr. is a thought leader on the subject of operational excellence, a prolific writer, and a sought-after speaker around the world. Although he is an expert in the more granular facets of the discipline, he places a special emphasis on the keystone for success: the engagement of people.

His vehicles for change and delivering the promises of operational excellence include the following:

• The XONITEK group of companies, a consultancy helping companies around the globe
• The Operational Excellence Society, a think tank serving the operational excellence ecosystem
• The Operational Excellence LinkedIn group

In addition, Paris serves on the editorial board of The Lean Management Journal, the board of the Systems Science and Industrial Engineering Department at the Watson School of Engineering at Binghamton University, and the board of the Institute of Industrial Engineers’ Process Industries Division. He is an active member of the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and the Association for Corporate Growth.
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