Tom Garrity

Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Southwest Airlines Trifecta

In Reputation on August 31, 2009 at 1:52 am

SWA TrifectaBeing raised in Texas, there is a certain pride of ownership of anything created in the Lone Star State.  Dr. Pepper, cowboy boots and Southwest Airlines are three uniquely Texas products.  However, the last item, Southwest Airlines, the company that came to live on a napkin is where I’ll focus the next few minutes.

On one recent trip, I had three unique encounters with Southwest Airlines.  I’ve since called the experience the Southwest Airlines Trifecta to friends and colleagues.

The first leg of the Trifecta occurred to me in conversation with a fellow passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight from Albuquerque to Chicago.  We were commenting on how SWA is no longer just pouring coffee, they are serving environmental and social responsibility.  The new “Lift” coffee uses recycled cups and donations to the Guatemala Light Project for every cup of coffee served.

The Trifecta’s second point was made while finishing the book “Sway” by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman.  In the later chapters Southwest Airlines is praised for its culture of Teamwork to improve airline safety ratings and processes.  The book explores a scenario and gives great insight to the Southwest Airline culture.

The trifecta was completed while reading through PR Week’s monthly edition on my flight back to Albuquerque.  The magazine featured a Q&A with Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly.  He talked about how Southwest Airlines measures the effectiveness of public relation approaches.

There are very few organizations that can make three unique “touches” with a visitor over the span of a month.  Congratulations to Southwest Airlines for making all three on a pair of three hours flights.

Ted Kennedy

In Life on August 30, 2009 at 1:50 am

TKennedyThe late Senator Ted Kennedy and I met at a luncheon in Washington DC.  Though he and I end up on opposite sides of many political discussions, he represented something that is larger than any philosophical difference.  To me, he represented a “comeback” kid and an ideologue whose family’s presence broke the proverbial glass ceiling for Irish Americans.

To me, his defining moment was not in front of the Senate or Democratic National Convention.  It was before some cameras, taking personal responsibility for his past and our future: “I recognize my own shortcomings — the faults in the conduct of my private life. I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them. I believe that each of us as individuals must not only struggle to make a better world, but to make ourselves better, too.”

That act of contrition spoke volumes to Americans.  Some have criticized that he wasn’t more specific.  I think his confession was appropriate for the cameras and one that was accepted by his Creator.

His larger than life personality was captured by a humble gregariousness (if that’s possible).  In my mind, by being true to himself, he earned his stripes for his family and for his Irish heritage.  The Kennedy family was to Irish Americans what the Obama family is to African Americans.

While time has passed with generation after generation, the Irish were once looked at as the doormat of European and American society.  It started decades before An Gorta Mor (the great Irish famine) and poured out on the Streets of Boston, New York and Philadelphia until decades ago.  The Kennedy family provided Irish respect and pride to be seen as equals in a corrupt society.

While I can understand that some people might find the Kennedy funeral coverage as overkill.  I also know that their perspective is limited to recent sound bites and political commentary and not the larger picture of the unspoken accomplishment of equality.

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Cash for Flunkers

In Reputation on August 6, 2009 at 1:48 am

NEA GovernorThis week the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) announced its progress, or lack thereof, on improving the State’s high school graduation rate.  The measure, called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), shows New Mexico’s 54% success rate is one of the worst in the United States, which has an average graduation rate of 70%).

There are a number of reasons for the low scores.  For example, culturally, there isn’t a rich history of formal education.  It isn’t uncommon for some graduates to be the first in their family to get a diploma.  Plus there are changing family dynamics that find grandparents raising their children’s children.   Some would see those reasons as excuses… it is just reality.

The sad reality that the PED has failed is seen in many ways.  The most glaring is how it has left behind the most vulnerable special needs children. Looking at the 2008-09 school year only 4% of the State’s special needs population were proficient.  As a benchmark, the same group had 6% proficiency just four years earlier… aren’t you suppose to improve over time?

So, now that New Mexico’s chief executive officer has received the coveted “America’s Greatest Education Governor Award”, presented last month by the National Education Association, it is good to know we are finally seeing some measureable initiative to combat this problem that “suddenly” appeared.

Two days after the PED released the information, the Governor announced a plan to recapture as many as 10,000 drop outs, establish committees/taskforces and create brochures.  The Reader’s Digest version, it is an aggressive truancy and top heavy bureaucratic approach which is the same as trying to get toothpaste back into the tube.  He is focusing on the students who don’t want to be there instead of giving attention and resources to those who are in school.  The squeaky wheel isn’t even getting the grease (and it is $2.4 billion of taxpayer grease each year)!

Terry Abbott, when he served as director of communications for Houston ISD (and later US Secretary of Education) Rod Paige, would have an approach he called the “its much worse” strategy.  In this particular case, the approach would acknowledge the low graduation rate but then focus on something that was “much worse”, like the fact that after years of hard work only 4% of 11th grade students with disabilities are proficient in math.  He would then outline the plan to increase proficiencies and “define” the issue, instead of a headline writer setting the agenda.

Delivering “bad” news is expected when State government is involved.  The lesson learned here, provide workable and reasonable solutions when the problems are first identified, not four years after the fact.

Image: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson accepting the NEA’s “America’s Greatest Education Governor Award”… thank you NEA for this “priceless moment”

Credit: Thanks to twitter for coining “Cash for Flunkers” on this issue