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Mini-Paper: Lateral Structures

Mini-Paper: Lateral Structures

Lateral structures refer to organizational arrangements whereby various departments collaborate to pursue organizational objectives instead of operating as separate entities. The Southwest Airlines case study identifies the company as one organization that has embraced lateral structure since its inception in 1967. Notably, this paper seeks to evaluate the lateral structures in the company based on the case study, how each structure supports business strategy, and what can be done to improve the organization’s effectiveness.

List of Structures

There are various lateral structures and mechanisms within Southwest Airlines. First, the people and culture practices are based on a lateral structure where a strong sense of belonging is cultivated. The corporate culture and values of the company shape the strong sense of community among all workers, irrespective of their positions. Second, Southwest Airlines’ lateral structure is enshrined in various trends exhibited by the company, which include no to basic economy fares and a no to a diversified fleet. Essentially, this ensures uniformity upon which lateral functioning is achieved. Fourth, all employees receive financial incentives laterally to promote harmony in work execution. Lastly, Southwest operates a 10-minute turn operation as one of its lateral structures.


The people and culture practice of lateral structure is crucial to the company’s business strategy. The founding leadership established the people and cultural practices. They include a strong sense of community and shared values in all work, ensuring teamwork and positive attitudes guide the hiring process to hire the right people (Miles & Mangold, 2017). Notably, this approach ensures that people subscribe to the business strategy before being hired into the company. The company has trained all its employees to work towards business strategy, explaining why it has profited for 40 consecutive years. The company ensured that certain trends were developed and maintained as a lateral structure that supports business strategy. For instance, the trend of no to basic economy fares ensured that no classifications could alter the company’s corporate values, which were at the center of the company’s business strategy. Further, the company maintained one fleet to ensure all workers experienced a similar work environment. Even when most of its fleet was grounded, the company remained afloat and did not change its business strategy.

The company offers financial incentives to all employees through a sharing profit strategy. The strategy ensures that employees feel a sense of ownership and engagement in their work, improving their efforts and thus the business initiative for profit making. For instance, the 10-minute turn operation plan succeeded since workers were willing to undertake responsibilities outside their mandate. Even though these lateral structures seem easy, they have proved difficult to copy by competitor firms (Bartel & Meier, 2021). Notably, this is so because they are instilled in the founding culture of the organization. Therefore, there is a need to uphold the corporate cultural values that have brought the organization this far for improved effectiveness. Even though the industry is dynamic, maintaining cultural values has proved to be fruit-bearing.


Southwest Airlines has succeeded in its operations and business strategy over the years due to lateral structures that have a strong bearing on corporate values. The values entail a strong sense of belonging and ownership of the organization by all employees, irrespective of rank. Analyzing the company’s business strategy indicates that the lateral structures have been successful. Therefore, there is a need to ensure that no changes are implemented in the organization that contradicts the founding corporate culture for continued company effectiveness.


Bartel, A., & Meier, S. (2021). LUV It or Leave It? Southwest Airlines Reflects on Organizational Choices. Columbia Business School.

Miles, S. J., & Mangold, W. G. (2017). Positioning Southwest Airlines through employee branding. In Strategic Management in Aviation (pp. 231-241). Routledge.


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Mini-Paper - Lateral Structures

Mini-Paper – Lateral Structures

Review LUV it or leave it? Southwest Airlines Reflects on Organizational Choices. Write a paper in which you list and describe the lateral structures and mechanisms at Southwest. Analyze how each of these supports the business strategy. Consider what could be done to improve Southwest’s effectiveness, and/or if other lateral or cross-functional processes should be added.

See Tool 4-2 in Designing Dynamic Organizations: A Hands-on Guide for Leaders at All Levels for how to map lateral processes.

Organize your paper into sections using the following headers:

List of Structures
Each section should be written using well-developed paragraphs. Within the assignment, reference key concepts in the course, as well as course readings. Cite sources in APA style.

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