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Friday February 1, 2008
COMMENTBy B.K. SIDHU
IT took Malaysia Airlines (MAS) a long time to realise that its MH code could be put to better use. Not only does the airline's top brass admit this but so do some of its employees.
Over the past months, MAS has given the airline's MH code a new identity – Malaysian Hospitality – and that could be its differentiating factor when pitted against other airlines.
To MAS managing director Datuk Seri Idris Jala, Malaysians are hospitable people and once the new identity is embraced, MAS employees will not merely be employees but hosts.
To him, those who fly MAS are not passengers but guests and their journey should be a “delightful experience” from the first touch point to the end of the journey.
He is so excited with code MH that he calls himself the Chief MH Officer.
But the right attitude is needed if MAS wants to win big time with the identity. To an employee, the crew can make or break MAS with their attitude since any mistake made by an employee is akin to a mistake by MAS and that brings its glorious name down.
So, how the host engages with its guests is what Jala wants its employees to be aware of.
And it was no coincidence when Jala, at a media briefing yesterday, spoke of the need for “everyone in MAS to be always humble.” To him, being humble could win some hearts but that message has to be “driven all the way through the company.”
Jala spent more than two hours explaining in detail why MH was so crucial and how the new business transformation plan (BTP) launched yesterday would ensure the airline's profit sustainability up to 2012.
This is necessary since the whole aviation landscape is evolving with the impending liberalisation and the entry of low-cost carriers.
MAS cannot continue to operate with its present high cost structure, which it needs to bring down to be competitive and be in a position to price its fares competitively.
Jala is set to make the transformation work, even if it means changing the mindset of the 16,000-odd employees. To him, if the journey was not taken, MAS' books would be tainted with red ink in 2012.
Over the past two years, various labs had been set up and 493 initiatives launched. There has been progress in many areas and the RM60 plate of nasi lemak is certainly no longer on the menu as the procurement department has been overhauled.
Outsourcing is one way of reducing costs, so is code sharing and striking an alliance is inevitable in the future. Even a change of uniform for the crew is in the pipeline to give MH a fresher look.
But what could possibly go wrong in the implementation of the ambitious BTP plan?
To Jala, complacency has seen major companies fall from glory. But this man is not going to allow that, as he is going to do whatever it takes for MAS to go on the new journey and deliver the projections made in its 100-page document.
This is one man who also ensures that if he decides to call it a day, he has a succession plan in place for MAS. His choice candidate is Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin but this is for MAS shareholders to decide.
Jala’s three-year term comes to an end at the end of this year and it is still early days to speculate whether he would stay. But by the look of things and given the fact that he has come up with an ambitious five-year plan, he looks certain to continue driving MAS for a very long time.
Jala admits that the plan cannot reach fruition without the help of everyone at MAS. Two years after making the same plea, he is still asking employees to do their part to achieve greatness.
In a video shown to the media yesterday, a cross section of employees interviewed showed support for Jala. One employee expressed that “all of us want to see MAS grow and we are dying to contribute and we would do whatever it takes to get MAS on track.”
That may be a message from one person but it is essentially the voice of many. Jala may be able to deliver what he has promised but he must also reward all employees and not just a small section of the workforce when times change for the better at MAS.
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