Recently, JetBlue Airways experienced major operational disruptions as a result of a severe winter ice storm in the Northeast. The company and its CEO David Neeleman are doing everything possible to recover from the problems that plagued their customers for several days and to make sure that such problems do not re-occur in the future. Mr. Neeleman wrote in an online message to JetBlue customers: "We have begun putting a comprehensive plan in place to provide better and more timely information to you, more tools and resources for our crewmembers and improved procedures for handling operational difficulties. Most importantly, we have published the JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights – our official commitment to you of how we will handle operational interruptions going forward – including details of compensation."
JetBlue’s travails remind me once more of the increased fragility of complex systems, and in particular, of the need to apply to 21st century businesses the kind of systems thinking that has long been used in more mature disciplines like civil, mechanical and electrical engineering. My MIT colleague, Yossi Sheffi, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering Systems, recently published a book, The Resilient Enterprise, in which he addresses these issues head on.