29 March 2007

Flying High in a Competitive Industry - Book Review

Cost-effective service excellence at Singapore Airlines.

Loizos Heracleous, Jochen Wirtz Nitin Pangarkar
Published by McGraw Hill 2006

With both a title and subject matter of immense potential this book is a bit of a let down. Sadly it doesn’t even start well. Rather is reads like a management consultant's tome that seeks to justify a business case through an over abundance of fact with little insight. I was in Singapore at the airport changing planes (actually from United to Tiger!) when I spied this book for sale and immediately bought it.

it is clear that the writers had insider access to SQ's people and documents. For this they should have been able to write a real cracker of a book. What makes SQ tick? Why is SQ so good at what it does? Perhaps it sadly personifies the whiter than white world of Singapore Airlines and the city nation itself without any constructive and objective criticism of what is has done wrong and where things have not gone well for SQ. All of us (me included for sure!) can learn from our mistakes. Not illustrating and then examining failures makes the successes seem more routine and perhaps less interesting. Clearly for me it lessens the value of the underlying story that despite the presentation I still find compelling. For example the disastrous partnership with Air New Zealand and the participation by SQ in the demise of Ansett Australia is not even mentioned.

Much of the early data indeed over 25 % of the book is spent on a flawed analysis of the airline industry. Nice useful data but both the facts are somewhat dated and the analysis far too simplistic for meaningful application and background to the rest of the book. You are left feeling unsatisfied.

Still Singapore Airlines is arguably a great airline. Driven by the notion of cost effective service excellence - they have risen to the top of the heap. SQ - you deserve better than this


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