from an interview with Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines

JB: You have not had long-term plans in general. You have eschewed that.

HK: Not long-term plans in the meticulous, detailed sense. What we’ve had is a strategic plan, which is really a definition of us, what do we think we ought to be, how do we think we ought to function, what kind of debt-equity ratio do we think we ought to have, that sort of thing – defining what we are, number one, strategically. Okay, this is our strategy, now that’s behind us. Our strategy is simple but ironclad. I mean, you know, you have to have discipline too to adhere to a strategy. Like, we’re not going to do some things that could generate more revenue because we simply don’t do those things. We’re not going to run our costs up 80% to get the last 20% of revenue that’s available, as an example.

Then, what values do we have? They’re very simple as well. And having simple, clearly expressed values enables you to move much faster because instead of studying things extensively, in many cases you’re prepared to say, just instantaneously, No, we don’t do that, or, Yes, that is something that we do, and we’re interested in it. But if it’s clear-cut, then you can act much more quickly. So speed, quickness is very important. And I think people have to learn that –

JB: Yes, working at the university I would say so. (HK laughs.)

HK: – and the fact that you never can obtain perfect knowledge. You have to include that realistically and up front. I’m never going to have perfect knowledge. Okay, that means when I make a judgment I’m taking a risk by definition. If you can’t have perfect knowledge, you’re taking a risk, but you have to be prepared to take those risks. You have to be prepared to make those judgments. And you have to be prepared to move ahead. And you have to be prepared to correct quickly any mistakes that you might make – quickly – not have mistakes that you’re so egotistical about, getting back to humility, that you say, “Oh my Lord, I can’t do anything about this because it’ll admit I was wrong.” You know what I mean: Say, “Well, I was wrong. I’ve got to correct it, instantaneously.”

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