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Herb Kelleher and the Culture at Southwest Airlines Organization Theory What is Culture The Random House College Dictionary describes culture in a social sense by stating it is the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another Thus if we substitute the social world that we live in for a business organization that we work in we get only a slightly different definition The definition provided by my text states Culture is the set of values guiding beliefs understandings and ways of thinking that is shared by members of an organization and taught to new members as correct In essence culture represents the unwritten feeling part of the organization we work in and society we live in The culture that has evolved around Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines is unquestionably the source of their success In the next few pages I will introduce you to Herb Kelleher and Southwest Airlines a company he helped start nearly 36 years ago I will then discuss the culture of Southwest and its importance to their success in the very competitive airline market Back in 1966 Herb Kelleher was a very bright successful lawyer in San Antonio Texas One of his clients at the time was a San Antonio entrepreneur Rollin King the owner of a small commuter air service Rollin King approached Herb with a colossal idea In a bar over drinks with doodles scratched on a cocktail napkin Rollin King proposed his concept starting a new airline using larger planes to serve the three major cities in Texas The plan was to fly between Dallas San Antonio and Houston Herbs response to the offer Rollin youre crazy Lets do it With 10000 of his own money to get it started Southwest Airlines was born No one not even Herb Kelleher himself was sure it
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