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BA really asked for it. (2008)

Things go wrong when a confident company gets too cocky – witness the airline’s Terminal 5 debacle. Too much pride can ruin judgment.

Richard Reeves
Management Today 1 May 2008

British Airways did not hold back when making claims for its new Terminal 5. It would be a space in which the passenger could ‘rejuvenate, revive and relax’, and find a ‘natural, logical journey that’s so calm, you’ll flow through’.

…In chaotic, calamitous scenes, at least 15,000 bags were mislaid and hundreds of flights were cancelled, while passengers were forced to spend hours staring at the ‘world class architecture’

The debacle appeared worse because of the sharpness of the contrast with the pre-opening promises about the terminal. It is true that the British, and in particular the British media, have a taste for Schadenfreude – but BA really did ask for it. Neither the ancient Greeks nor the early Christians would have been surprised by BA’s woes.

The problem occurs when corporate confidence spills over into corporate cockiness.

In BA’s case, the hubris extended only to boastfulness, rather than to a course of action.

Hubris at its worst leads to poor decision-making, as a leader or leadership team becomes so convinced of their own judgment and greatness that they fail to look at all sides of a situation. Northern Rock inevitably springs to mind; but in recent years the behaviour of Enron is perhaps the best business example. In these cases, rather than simply preceding the fall, pride causes it.

Hubris strikes political leaders, too.

Access the full article here: BA really asked for it.

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