How to lead a revolution in RyanAir

Will the revolution succeed? Will it fail?  You can be sure there are plenty of people - especially in Ireland - who'd love to see Michael O'Leary get his comeuppance.  

Oh yes, I've met them.  I've read them. They're around every dinner party, on threads on websites, Twitter too. Certainly you know them. [You might even be one yourself.]

And you might be right. The revolution in RyanAir may fail. Might even be a damp squib. Might even be a collection of tricks to distract people from the disappointing recent results. 

Revolutions fail. We know about "false dawns".

Ok, I admit - I think RyanAir is ripe for change - a really big one.  
I believe the rhetoric - MIchael O'Leary's propaganda. [And I may make a fool of myself in public about this.]

"RyanAir tells its staff:  Smile... or else"
Dream copy - excellent headline in The Sunday Business Post yesterday. Profoundly informed & insightful.  [Congrats to whoever came up with it.]

You see, RyanAir has a long tradition: it has a track record that's consistent. You know where you stand with RyanAIr.

  • Turn up on time ... or else
  • Weigh in correctly... or else
  • Write in your complaints... or else
  • Our way... or else

That's a classicly brutal culture that rules by force.  That's operating from a position of strength. Ruling the customers - in their interest of course. 

There has been logic behind all the RyanAir positions... 
they haven't been arbitrary.  A child of 8 could write them all down & predict accurately what RyanAir's position on anything would be. 

It's good when your customers can predict what sort of service they'll receive. In a way, they feel safe - a lot better than if they felt they were subject to the whims of individual members of staff.

Predictably inflexible is better than unpredictably disappointing.

It cost very little to train staff to be inflexible.

This revolution in RyanAir will cost a lot.  
Even though Director of Personnel & Inflight Robbie Wilson wrote a very clear memo to staff saying :

"Crew who want to be promoted need to understand that the airline is 'raising the bar on what we expect' and that 'only those number ones who are truly leaders and inspire their crews... by providing for our customers... will remain in the role.

'I can't emphasise how serious we are about this... The changes you have seen are here to stay.' [SBP report, 2 February 2014].

A lot of money, time & reputations  
Turning a coherent brand around from "our way or no way" to "your way our way"  is mega. What other word could we use than "revolutionary"?

The personality of RyanAIr may have been a projection of Michael O'Leary's own personality - he admitted as much at the AGM.  But at least it was predictable - customers, staff, suppliers, even investors knew what they were in bed with.

All that is over. Unbelievers rule these days.  
No one has confidence in this new RyanAir - yet.  

"it comes across with all the insincerity of Ross O'Carroll-Kelly apologising to his old man for writing off his car and then asking his Da, do you think I could borrow Mom's car tonight?" - wrote GAVIN DUFFY – 31 JANUARY 2014

But when the new RyanAir website is revealed, we'll be taken aback.  It'll paint a different story. A new sincere brand personality. One that especially appeals to families & business people - one that will not be outflanked by EasyJet - for much longer.

There will be a stream of "leaked" internal documents that show RyanAIr directors mean it. 

Mark my words, the RyanAir revolution is for real
- and there's a huge campaign being waged to change the image of the company  - disrupt & destroy the status quo.  The campaign will be on all fronts - all touchpoints where customers & opinion-formers meet RyanAir. 

  • Already there are new jobs filled.
  • Probably new job descriptions [if RyanAir have such documents].  
  • Agencies will have new briefs.

Staff will be trained on customer care.
You can't just tell people to smile & believe that's the job done. Customers aren't dim. False smiles backed up with mediocre service will undermine investment in the revolution.  Robbie Wilson better not be a lone voice. He better win internal support from other directors, better prove he's a great change agent. Or he'll be yesterday's man.

Your brand personality better be authentic & sustainable
- or else you'll require a revolution within the organisation. Switching from "Our Way Your Way" to "Your Way Our Way" requires a completely new engine - not a simple refit.

If you adopt a brand personality as a tactic for battle, you'll struggle when the power balance shifts.

RyanAir will struggle.  It's struggling now.  But that's what it has to do - carry on struggling. Move forward inch by inch towards a new brand identity that becomes credible. 

People are laughing at RyanAir
- the same people who are glad RyanAir gave them cheaper fares, more travel + better family life.  RyanAIr will have to suck up the scepticism of others. Michael O'Leary will get off the bus one day.  A new driver will take over, switch the blinds & head for a new destination. RyanAIr will comply, will bow the knee, will humble itself to attract more customers - especially business people & families.

But RyanAir is not too big to fail. 

The moral of this story is...
Respect your brand - but don't forget to respect the people for whom your brand exists.