Stephen Douglas




United States


Public Administration


Jan 2016 - Sep 2017

By Stephen Douglas

Part 2: Why Segregating the Sexes at Heathrow Makes no Strategic Sense

As I was flying back to my job as a diplomat in a conflict zone, I found myself at Heathrow musing on what I had just been learning about during the sixth module of my Executive MBA at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.

A dominating KSF (Key Success Factor) of an airport must be the quickest, safest and most comfortable possible journey from entering departures to boarding the aeroplane.

Yet, now instead of checking-in online making things faster, somehow, dropping a bag at a counter takes longer for everyone than checking-in in person ever took. I was Number 203 in a queue of people who had checked-in online, and simply wanted to drop their bag.

Segregating women and men as they went through one security detector according to whether or not the sole male and sole female frisker on the other side of the sole detector funnelling two queues happens to be free means people of either sex are backed up at different times. This was causing chaos, not least when children were wishing to stay with mothers, fathers, neither or both.

And, because the journey from security to aeroplane is punctuated by so many detours around and through revenue-producing shops and the like, it takes a million times longer than it should. It’s almost as if they’re trying to force each customer by a minimum number of outlets, and that even the positions of stairs are aligned to achieving this goal.

Myriad competing quality assessment/reporting schemes at each stage can’t be of much help either – how can I assess my airline’s service in isolation from the security staff’s service provision or in isolation from the bag drop service being operated by an outsourcing company? Yet, each ask me to judge their quality, individually and not as part of the whole.

It seems that the management of every stage in the production line within our airports is constantly trying to maximise its own systems. Each stage is perfectly rational and continuously being rationalised and improved according to its own distinct internal logic.

Sadly, for the primary user of the airport – the customer – this nuclearised optimisation of each stage’s internal logic yields a sub-optimal result.

The KSF of the customer (the quickest, safe and most comfortable possible journey from entering the departure lounge to entering the aeroplane) is inconsistent with the delivery of the selected KSFs of, respectively, the airline, the airport, health and safety authorities and their outsourced service delivery partners’ shareholders.

It’s an almighty muddle.

Doubtless, the airport’s CEO would benefit from an Oxford University Executive MBA or at the very least from the services of an Oxford EMBA graduate. Are you hiring???!

P.S. I began these blogs with a photo of the kitten (now cat) which, like Dick Whittington, I had arrived with at London Heathrow last January to attend my first module at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. My cat had been handed to me by a soldier on the very day Oxford Saïd had offered me a place on its Executive MBA programme. Now, she’s living merrily in Wales with my family. So, since I am often asked how my little refugee is adjusting to her new life in the UK, I thought I’d share some photos of her now. One of these photos shows her just after the operation to remove shrapnel, which was the result of the fighting the night before the soldier handed her to me one year ago. The others of her are taken a few days ago. Now I am working on converting her International Veterinary Certificate into an EU pet passport, just in case Brexit actually occurs, and this negatively impacts on her freedom of movement within the EU.

Stephen Douglas operation

Stephen Douglas wales

Stephen douglas playing the game

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