What is happening at Qantas, Australia's once great national airline? While other airlines, including Air New Zealand, are performing well and generating solid returns, Qantas has fallen off its perch. Profits are down and jobs are being axed. Many commentators have published articles in the past few days about the impending demise of Qantas, including this one published in the Sydney Morning Herald. While claims of impending demise may be impetuous, a sorry pattern of neglect is apparent. The board of directors is nowhere to be seen.
The board has the delegation to oversee the performance of the company, in accordance with the shareholder's wishes. Yet the board has not been mentioned. It has remained remarkably silent. We don't know what its been doing. Have the directors been actively working in the back room, or have they fallen asleep at the wheel? Clearly a series of mis-steps and mishaps have beset Qantas and placed it on a downward trajectory. The job of the board is to respond. It is the board's job to set strategy, appoint a CEO to implement it and make adjustments when needed. Will CEO Alan Joyce (just 42 years old when appointed) and others be sacked? Maybe. Should they be? If Alan Joyce has failed to implement the approved strategy then possibly. However, if the board has not crafted an appropriate strategy, or if it has not made adjustments in response to unexpected situations and changing market dynamics, then the board itself is culpable.
Clearly, there are more moves to be played out yet, including the possibility of a bailout by the government (that happened to Air New Zealand—over a decade ago now). However, we need to hear from the board, to see some leadership in what is obviously a time of crisis. After all, the accountability buck stops there.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.