“On Time” Does Not Mean the Same Thing for All Airlines, Until Now

United, Delta, and American appear to have remarkable records for on-time performance, ranking right up there in the 80% range, on average. Meanwhile, JetBlue and Southwest have numbers dipping down into the 60% range. Is there really that much difference between and among airlines for on-time performance? Nope, there is not. United, Delta, and American have regional jet flights (Delta Connection, American Eagle, and United Express) that are operated by other companies. However, those regional flights are marketed as American, Delta, and United Flights. Most passengers are not even aware that there are these operating partnerships. And seasoned travelers know that the regional flights are notoriously late, canceled, and riddled with challenges. American, Delta, and United do not count those regional flights in their on-time performance data.

Until now. JetBlue and Southwest on-time performances include virtually all of their flights. American, Delta, and United include only their non-regional flights. The third-party operated but airline-marketed flights are not included in their overall on-time percentages. Not bad when you can spike the curve! However, starting in 2018, the data points change and so will the on-time performance rates. Except for the airlines that were already counting all of their flights.

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The Havoc Pajama Boys Wreak

NOTE: This piece was submitted for publication at a national outlet on September 4 — no response. So, posting the piece here. Just wanted to note that many articles on this very issue began to appear during the last few weeks. Sometimes letting your work go outside is risky when responses are not prompt.

The pajama boys – untucked, unshaved, uncombed, flip-flopped, with a vibe you got from junior high boys who spent too much time in the basement with National Geographic. Except the pajama boys had new tools in the basement: access to a database of porn. Pajama boys bring a volatile combination to the workplace—brilliant minds obsessed with juvenile pastimes.

We depend on their skills, so we tolerate their attire, responses (or lack thereof), and extra-or intra-curricular activities. But, pajama boy CEOs are dangerous. Pajama-boys are terrific entrepreneurs who destroy their own companies, if left to their own devices. Shortly after the IPO, culture problems choke the company.

Dov Charney grew American Apparel into a stunning success. However, he had an interesting wardrobe, even for a pajama boy. Sexual harassment suits against him and the company revealed problems with Mr. Charney remaining clothed. The company, which did not turn a profit after 2008, had to go through legal wrangling and Mr. Charney’s ouster as well as a bankruptcy filing before the board could wrest control from this determined pajama boy in 2014.

Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals and author of the 5,000% price increases on life-saving drugs, was described by a potential juror during voir dire for his securities fraud trial, as a “snake.” Also ousted by his board, jurors at his trial, who came back with guilty verdicts, described him as “his own worst enemy.”

Upload, SoFi, and others too numerous to mention have the label of “bro cultures.” That’s the pajama-boy mentality. They create cultures that frighten female employees and silence the rest. Uber was a pajama-boy paradise. While the board pulled the cord on the ejection seat for former CEO, Travis Kalanick, it did so 4 years after he sent a “way harsh” memo warning employees to be sure that any sex they had at an upcoming company retreat was consensual. Asleep at the wheel would be one description for this board, but the culture had festered to the point that recruiting a CEO became a tall order. The board’s short list indicated its cluelessness. Bring in Meg Whitman? Nurse Ratched trying to rein in Jack Nicholson and the boys in a cuckoo’s nest. There would have been no pretty ending for that combination.

When pajama boys are company founders, there are only two choices. Bring in some adults early or face the Charney/Uber consequences. Sheryl Sandberg got to Facebook before Zuckerberg consumed the company. Pajama boy habits die hard, and a firm hand at the helm is a must. Marissa Mayer met resistance at Yahoo when she tried to make people show up for work, . . .in the office. The nerve of some broads. Her days were numbered before she even bought Tumblr.

Pajama boys are not well read in economics or history. So, they spout platitudes that have doomed societies in the past. Mark Zuckerberg recently offered us all a pearl, “Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, it’s good for the entire family.” Most of us already knew that and made the time, despite full-time jobs, in offices, to do so. Pajama boy techies are now out stumping for “universal basic income.” Been there, done that – see Venezuela.

Platitudes reveal a key trait of pajama boys: They don’t know what they don’t know. They miss consequences because they assert “feelings.” They want diversity, but fire the first whale to the surface who spouts a different view. Firing the young engineer with the memo on biology and diversity has cemented a culture of fear and silence at Google. Undaunted, Google then followed up by having one of their own think-tank’s scholars sacked for supporting the EU in its Google antitrust fines. In the isolated tech/Internet world, neither history nor views of those in the heartland make their way into the Silicon Valley offices’ foosball and beer rooms.

The missteps and pratfalls by pajama boys are numerous and legendary. The dot-com pajama boy debacles are too numerous to list. Zenefits: Why not develop a software program to create fraudulent licenses for your insurance agents? Theranos: Assume you have a blood-testing program that works without testing; just sell it. More pajama boy problems lie ahead. Elon Musk does not walk on water. In fact, Tesla is in for some frightening times as its spacey CEO enjoys free rein.

Apple had to get Steve Jobs out in order to give him a little growing-up time. He came back humbled and focused on products and a strategy of anticipating customer needs that customers hadn’t yet realized. That’s what pajama boys do well. But, they need either time to mature or adult supervision, and both require an engaged board. Without one of the two, pajama boys’ companies cannot grow up.

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In the This-Can’t-Be-Good-News-Department . . . Barclays’ Senior Compliance Officer Leaves

There is a continuing investigation into Barclays CEO James E. (Jes) Staley’s attempts to unmask a whistleblower who was critical of Mr. Staley’s hiring of longtime associate at his former bank (JP Morgan) for a top position at the bank. Notice that plural in “attempts.” Mr. Staley was blocked by bank officials once from unmasking the identity of the whistleblower and he made a second run at it through different channels. Mr. Staley has been disciplined financially by the Barclays board for those actions and has issued an apology. However, both U.S. and UK financial regulators are investigating the bank for its treatment of whistleblowers. Mr. Staley is the third CEO at Barclays since the bank’s LIBOR scandal.

Jonathan Cox, Barclay’s global head of whistleblowing, had a dispute with the bank, a dispute that was scheduled to be heard in London this coming week. However, Mr. Cox agreed to withdraw his dispute. Barclays announced both the withdrawal of the Cox dispute along with his departure from the bank. No one is sharing anything about the nature of the Cox dispute or why it was withdrawn or why Mr. Cox is leaving. On the surface, the conclusion in the title is apt: This can’t be good news. Just the fact that the chief of your whistleblower program has an ongoing dispute with your company during a whistleblower investigation tends to speak for itself. The Barometer wonders if anyone has an eye for optics at the bank.

As an aside, there is some sort of U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the so-called “poaching” of JPMorgan execs by Mr. Staley. The status of that investigation remains unclear. Seems the Barclays board could use a frying pan to the head on this third CEO. How many more investigations, resignations, and issues have to arise before the board zeroes in on the epicenter?

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“The company is not criminal as a whole. Parts of the company engaged in criminal behavior.”

Volkswagen CEO, Matthias Muller, in an interview with William Boston of the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Boston’s reporting on the VW scandal has been stellar.

Let’s contrast with the initial statements by then CEO Martin Winterkorn when the emissions falsification scandal emerged in 2015:

Upon his resignation he said:

“I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group.”
“I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part.”
“I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group.”

Since the time of those initial quotes, documents have emerged that indicate Mr. Winterkorn was aware of questions about emissions as early as 2014. Mr. Winterkorn is under investigation in Germany for alleged failure to disclose the problems in a timely fashion.

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Cell Phone Use Whilst Driving: Scary Survey

A group called “Student Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)” joined with Liberty Mutual Insurance to conduct a survey of what high school student do whilst driving. Here are the percentages who admit to using apps on their phones when behind the wheel:

Sophomores. 49%
Juniors. 58%
Seniors. 67%*

At night, you can see their faces as they hold their phones up as they use them. During the day, this sign is less obvious. Oh, use caution on the road. Better yet, dear teens, think of the safety of others and the promising lives you have ahead. Put those phones away when driving.

*Survey of 2,800 teens. Michael B. Smith and Janet Loehrke, “Older But Not Wiser,” USA Today. September 8, 2017.

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Why Do People Put This Stuff in Texts and E-Mails?

Here’s a safety tip: Just assume when you tweet, e-mail, chap snat, tumble, gram your instant, and anything else in cyberspace that folks will see it, resend it, and/or have it become the central focus of a presidential campaign or a federal investigation into your ties with Russia.

Major General Joseph Harrington is the latest military to fall victim to shenanigans, and one in a line of distinguishing (and not so) public figures to have their electronic communications exposed. According to an IG report, the MG was sending flirty texts that ripened into suggestive texts to the wife of a soldier. Avert your eyes if you prefer not to groan because examples of the MG’s texts follow:

“You seem to have a great modeling resume! Truly! Though I hadn’t noticed! Where is your hubby tonight? Work?”
“I’d enjoy being in a tent with U.”

Finally, catching himself on the inappropriate nature of his ongoing communications, he added, “I hope u delete this exchange!” and “Why not delete after communicating?”

Groan and sigh here. Putting aside the obvious ethical issues of a major general chatting it up with a soldier’s wife: How on earth do these people have time for this? Clearly a major general’s job is demanding than the Barometer’s work. The First Amendment being what it is, the Barometer will not suggest banishing these folks from electronic communication. However, the Barometer has a compromise: Get these folks a mandatory and good copy editor.

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Wells Fargo: Wanted: A Little Leadership and Some Knowledge About Culture

Let’s recap. Wells Fargo has experienced the following events in the past 12 months:

In September 2016, it uncovered 2.1 fake or unauthorized account set up by employees pursuant to a sales goal program (account reps were using fictitious names, opening accounts for relatives and then having them closed once the sales goals were met, and, in an old fashioned twist, just opening accounts up in customers’ names without the customers knowing

Shortly thereafter, Wells fired 5,300 employees, all whilst proclaiming that the sacked employees simply did not follow the bank’s motto of putting the customer first.

Some months later, mortgage repayment terms were changed without authorization in bankruptcies of Wells loan customers.

Two months ago, Wells disclosed that 800,000 loan customers had auto insurance they had not authorized.

Last week Wells announced that it was wrong on that number of unauthorized accounts, and added another 1.4 million to the original 2.1 figure.

The third-party investigation that uncovered the problems was an important step for Wells. And the voluntary disclosure was a big step as well. However, there comes a point when credibility, trust, and competency are in doubt. The steady drip, drip, drip leaves the impression that the bank still does not have its arm around one thing: What kind of culture do we have that these behaviors keep cropping up? And one important question has to be answered: Why would our employees believe that what they have done is acceptable behavior at Wells Fargo? Until the bank’s leadership and board know the answer to that question, its full-page apologies, its promises to do better, and its assurances that things are under control begin to look comical. The bank that can’t shoot straight. Wells stock has remained flat for a year. Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup have an average gain of 40%. And let’s not even mention what has happened to new business at Wells. That is one ugly set of figures.

Wells is not there yet. A culture study, a strategic revamp, and different incentive plans are needed. Until the board comes to grips with the stories about employee actions and what they were doing (and apparently still doing) they cannot get the bank back on track. Answer that question, and you move forward. Ignore it, and the drips will continue.

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Employee Engagement Surveys, Culture Surveys, and Ethics Surveys

Companies, agencies, organizations, and Little League teams, for all the Barometer knows, use all three. In fact, they pay through the nose for experts to come in and run all three. There are two problems. The first is that the surveys almost always include demographics. Employees do not answer honestly because, for example, if there is one female in a department (say, at Google, for instance), and the survey asks for the employee’s gender and department, the survey is not anonymous. The solo female in that department has figured that out. Identify employees on these surveys by gender, race, education, etc. and with the name of their department, anyone could take the survey and determine who answered what way on the surveys. The probablility that the solo female in a department who is identified by the demographics will disclose problems in her department are about as high as the chances that Scottish guy was going to win that fight last weekend. We all knew that was a show, and the employees know the surveys are for show, not truth.

The second problem is the managers. Their evaluation may include metrics on how well employees rate the company in these types of surveys. So, like car dealerships trying to get all 10s on customer satisfaction surveys, they begin talking with customers following the service but prior to the survey so that they can make things right. Managers sit down with employees prior to survey time and ask if there if they do indeed “Agree Absolutely,” as the surveys will read with all the good stuff, and “Absolutely Disagree” on all the bad stuff. In other words, managers coach their employees up a bit in a pre-survey huddle.

Be careful what you incentivize and how you measure. You will get great numbers; they just might not be real. Figures don’t lie, but survey takers and their managers do game the system. Instead of the metrics, analytics, data, and expense, ask your employees this simple question: Is there anything that you did at work or were asked to do at work during the past year that bothers you? You will be stunned at what’s going on, and all while your numbers were so great on the surveys.

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The WSJ Remembers Journalism Matters

Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal sent an e-mail to the staff of the Journal on their coverage of President Trump. Mr. Baker described the coverage of the president’s trip to Phoenix as overly opinionated, “Sorry. This is commentary dressed up as news reporting.” He then added, “Could we please just stick to reporting what he said rather than packaging it in exegesis and selective criticism?”

Robert Bartley, the former editor in chief, would be proud. He took great care to separate the news reporting staff from the opinion staff. Just the facts. Just the facts. We can do our own takes on all things Trump.

Three cheers for Mr. Baker for a stand of journalistic integrity. Feelings about Trump aside, the press is too close to the line of losing credibility because commentary masquerading as reporting have crept in on a daily basis. Now, if he could just convince his colleagues to do the same introspection.

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“Do you have anything to say?”

Response to Herman Miller CEO, Max De Pree, from a young employee in Herman Miller’s research department when Mr. De Pree told him that he was thinking about writing a book on leadership and requested his help on editing.

Now, that’s a culture in which employees feel free to speak their minds. Google could learn a few things from Mr. De Pree’s acceptance of criticism from employees. Mr. De Pree died August 8, 2017 at age 92 in his beloved Michigan. RIP, Mr. De Pree, and thanks for your book on leadership that taught us to have covenants with employees, vendors, and customers. Peter Drucker thought that Mr. De Pree had important things to say; he just kept it brief.

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“[I] got caught in the cross hairs between a very politically ambitious prosecutor [and] a judicial system of juries that don’t really understand sophisticated financial crimes.”

Rajat K. Gupta,former Goldman Sachs director, former McKinsey consultant, who was convicted of insider trading for tipping off Raj Rajaratnam (Galleon) about Warren Buffett’s critical $5 billion infusion into Goldman in 2008. Mr. Gupta served a two-year prison sentence, and the Second Circuit has agreed to review his conviction.

His post-prison perspective is incorrect. He tipped off a guy who made a great deal of money on Goldman stock through the use of an inside scoop fed to him by Gupta, who breached his fiduciary duty as a director in so doing. That’s insider trading, with or without a politically ambitious prosecutor and “stupid” juries.

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“They think because they’re doing something disruptive, the regulations that apply to other companies don’t apply to them.”

Michael Hansen on Silicon Valley start-ups. Think Uber, Tesla, Turing, Theranos,Yahoo, Chipotle, and a host of new-idea companies. As noted in The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse, the culture of innovation means that those within the firm think that the rules apply to other, stodgy companies and people. They are running a business as no one else has ever run a business before. Probably not true — the attitude usually finds them running the business right into the ground. And anyone can do that with enough disregard of laws, regulation, accounting principles, principles of sound finances. They seem to be really good at disregard.

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The World-Class Ophthalmologist Out as Med School Dean at USC

Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito was a heck of a dean at the USC medical school. Under his leadership, the school went up in the rankings and hauled in millions in donations. However, it seems there was some extracurricular activity on the dean’s part. Photos emerged showing Dr. Puliafito lighting a glass pipe for a female companion who was smoking heroin. Then there was the video showing the dean popping ecstasy and saying to the camera,“Thought I’d take an ecstasy before the ball.” School officials were then given a tip that a young woman (age 21 and reportedly a prostitute) who had been partying with the dean at a Pasadena hotel was hospitalized for an overdose. Following the overdose report, Dr. Puliafito resigned as dean to “pursue outside opportunities.” Adam Nagourney and Jennifer Medina, “Scandal Sinks Dean at U.S.C., Shocking a City,” New York Times, July 26, 2017, p. A1. However, he remained on the faculty and continued to see patients.

Once the Los Angeles Times reported on the drug issues, USC’s president issued a statement saying,“. . .it is clear to us now that the university currently has only loosely defined procedures and guidelines for dealing with employee behavior outside the workplace that may be improper or illegal and has the capacity to affect USC. And, presently, the university has very limited capacity to conduct investigations and follow up on leads or anonymous reports of such employee behavior.”

Sometimes we get a report and hope that it goes away. That hope is always ill-placed. If what is reported is true, you have a problem. If it is false, you still have a problem to manage via communications and solid facts. Either way, once the reports and pictures emerged, the only alternative was an investigation. USC has hired a former federal prosecutor to investigate what happened. Now if they could just get the guy off the faculty.

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“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Garrison Kellor, Writer’s Almanac

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