Strategizing CSR from a cockpit!
As part of Kellie McElhaney’s Strategic CSR course, our 3-person team is developing green positioning strategy for a low cost US domestic airline. Working on this project is one of the highlights of my MBA experience for a multitude of reasons, but I will focus on only 3: my team, our trip to the corporate headquarters, and the client impact.
This project is truly an MBA experience where teammates with very different backgrounds leverage their previous job experiences to develop client recommendations. The combination of my teammates’ and my expertise in project management, creative design, finance, and client services provided for a more comprehensive and creative green positioning strategy by enabling our team to look at strategic green positioning and the client’s current situation from very different angles. The combination of our backgrounds and extensive client research yielded a working hypothesis that while our client airline was pioneering many revolutionary green initiatives, they did not tell about these initiatives to their existing or potential customers! As with many other teams in our Strategic CSR class, under-communicating CSR achievements to the customers turned out to be our client’s key problem.
Mid-way through our project (in early March), our client invited us to visit their corporate headquarters to validate our working hypothesis. 3 of us boarded a customer plane at 6:55am on a Monday morning, landed at 1pm, checked into the hotel right next to the headquarters and spent the next 5 hours in the back-to-back meetings with various departments’ representatives. It was fascinating to confirm the validity of our hypothesis in every meeting and to learn possible ways on how to implement our proposed improvements! After a decadent vibrant dinner with the 3 client contacts, we all headed to an airline hangar to continue our fieldwork. To our surprise, we were encouraged by our clients to go on the planes that were going through washing and maintenance. We were able to not only interview maintenance personnel, but also take photos in the cockpit of the plane that we flew back home on next morning!