Nothing but Volatility: Lauren Kriegler

  • Season 4, Episode 9
  • April 9, 2024
  • 36-minute listen

Nothing but Volatility: Lauren Kriegler

While creating her new role, what did Kriegler do to structure the department, learn the job, gain visibility into Alaska Airlines’ supply chain and prepare for the inevitable challenges?

How did that preparation serve her when dealing with a seemingly endless series of crises? And how did she adapt? What can Kriegler’s experience tell us about how leaders build a new operation with agility and creativity?

Episode description

On a mid-May afternoon in 2020, Lauren Kriegler sat in her home office and scribbled a warning to her young kids—who were in the thick of remote learning—on a Post-It Note and stuck it to her office door: “Important call. Do not come in!”

For five years at Alaska Airlines, Kriegler had led a massive project to overhaul the uniforms provided to its 20,000+ frontline employees—five years building a program from raw materials to design and development, inventory planning and distribution, and ultimately the culmination of a rollout during the early stages of the pandemic.

This included multiple visits to China to get closer to the supply chain, as well as the integration of industry-leading textile safety standards, leading Alaska to be the first North American carrier to integrate Oeko-Tex into a custom supply chain. Along the way, Kriegler led additional teams, including retail operations, freight and logistics, and print programs. As the uniform program launched and was moving to steady state, she was starting to think about her next challenge.

Now, as the Teams window on her computer flashed open to her weekly tie-in with her boss, she was confronting what might come next: leading the fuel program for the airline as director of fuel—an area of the business where she had no experience. It was a role fraught with challenge and opportunity that started with the consolidation of two departments, the lack of a hand-off from her predecessors in the role and a massive learning curve.

Once she assumed the role that July of 2020, she would see planes get fueled for the first time, spend time on the ramp learning the operation and become quickly immersed in the complexities of the oil and refining markets and supply chains. She openly acknowledged with internal and external partners that at many times she had more questions than answers.

She worked diligently to overcome her learning curve in order to prepare the fuel program to support the airline’s emergence from the pandemic, both operationally and financially. Through all of these learnings, she also started to wrap her arms around an initially small but critical component of the fuel program: Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)—something that as the months went by would become a much more significant focus of her day-to-day role.

By the end of her first year and what Kriegler called a “brutal summer,” she had confronted all that and more, including a Mother’s Day 2021 alert to the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, wildfires, labor shortages, extreme weather and other external events that buffeted fuel supply chain operations.

“I’ve only known volatility,” Kriegler said. “During that first summer, I remember thinking (that) how I navigated that summer’s seemingly never-ending challenges would shape my future at Alaska as an operational leader. I was determined not just to get through it, but to establish an industry-leading program that was resilient and intentional. And to be honest, I had many moments of self-doubt given my lack of experience—and I know others did as well.”

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This podcast is a production of Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Contributors include: 

  • Katie Wools, Cathy Myrick, Judy Milanovits and Lesley Liesman, creative assistance
  • Jill Young Miller, fact-checking and creative assistance
  • Austin Alred and Olin’s Center for Digital Education, sound engineering
  • Hayden Molinarolo, original music and sound design
  • Mike Martin Media, editing
  • Sophia Passantino, social media
  • Lexie O'Brien and Erik Buschardt, website support


Kurt Greenbaum, Communications Director

One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

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