With a little help from my friends…

So here I am staring at the blank white box, one week later.

Help, I knew this would happen – my mind’s gone blank…..

Having determined to write a Blog about Business and IT matters, it’s got to be about that, at least fundamentally – not about Roman forts or some interesting theories about the start of the First World War.

Sally said: think about what happened last week – and start there. And immediately I was spoilt for choice.

I could write about my walk around the emerging C Terminal at T5 at Heathrow; I could write about a business breakfast with Ken Clarke and quite a few others, or I could write about our belated BA recognition event.

The purpose of this blog is absolutely not to write about British Airways itself but about IT and business – but I think the Event is more generally relevant.  Here’s why.

As is well known, life in an airline – or any business for that matter – in 2009 has been decidedly challenging.  When I stand up in our Theatre and address my department (which includes property, finance and IT services) it is invariably these days to promise blood, sweat and tears, budget reductions, severance programmes and plans for dealing with the pensions deficit.

That’s the way it is – we all understand this, after all we have been engaged –  like most businesses – in a fight for survival last year.

So my Comms colleague said, why don’t we just say “Thank you”? Why don’t we have a Recognition Event for 2009 and just for 60 minutes?

They worked tirelessly to set this up, secured Willie as keynote speaker, even ordered mince pies (quite something in these austere times) and produced a video clip of many of the great things we had all done in 2009.   All ready to go – and then the threat of the cabin crew strike before Christmas forced us to postpone, since everyone was involved in contingency planning.

That did not happen; so we re-fixed – great, we could just squeeze it in before Christmas.   And then the snow came, and  everyone who could get in was keeping the airline going or volunteering in the terminals or the call centres.   So we cancelled again.

Seemed like it had all been in vain.  But saying thank you is never in vain.  My colleagues convinced me that we should still go ahead with this – even though it was February – and 2009 seemed long ago.

So this Wednesday at 11am I found myself watching that video clip of all the great things people had done in 2009, and rather nervously marching up to the podium to recognise some very special projects and everyone who had worked on them.

The truth is that in all the rushing around and crisis management, you forget just how much has been achieved, and you forget that to deliver each one of those projects, services and deliveries, people had to come together.  Yes, it was probably the most challenging year in modern airline history (but who knows what next?) and yes, we survived and yes, we even made a small operating profit in the final quarter.   We all contributed to that in many ways, so it was good to take a moment to recognise that.

There were five projects we highlighted and people who worked on them got a certificate.  We chose them because they were great examples of everyone working together on the Airline’s Strategic Objectives across boundaries and departments.  Anyone in corporate life knows how difficult that can be sometimes.

For the record they were: Customer – helping to set up the innovative new London City (via Shannon) JFK route; Performance – the new revenue-generating initiatives on ba.com; Excellence – the new crew funding process and system for cabin crew down-route; Partnership – the completion of all the moves in the wonderful T5; and Colleagues – our work in setting up the Business Response Scheme, enabling many people across the airline to take voluntary unpaid leave and indeed volunteer to work without pay.

Speaking personally, it was quite scary standing up there and trying to find the right words to capture what they have achieved.  But I was ably supported with video and graphics which pictured as many colleagues as possible.

So what’s the point of all of saying all of this? It was great to recognise these achievements, which you can see all made a difference.  It was good to take the time to recognise everyone who had worked throughout the year to help us survive.  What we do at work is in so many ways in IT or properties or shared services is a team sport.  Team work. No great originality there, but it still is worth – even briefly – taking some time to look back and recognise this.

Oh, and by the way, at the end we had an adaption of “A little help from your friends” with specially adapted words.

Definitely the highlight of my week – sorry Ken!

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