The Emperor’s New Clothes?

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Readers: This issue is far from IFE and we apologize for that fact. We did think you might find this story interesting, not because of the intrigue involved, but rather its’ “suspicions confirmed” flavor. Admittedly, we have never worked on a story like this before, however, many of us wonder what is happening inside the Seattle planemaker, Boeing. Late delivery schedules have never been tolerated in the past and relatively recent moves; buyouts and management shuffles may have taken their toll. Our story starts with one dedicated Boeing employee who worked tirelessly for the company, before and after his retirement. We know, we were there… we got the T-shirt! His website says it all but the background is so amazing we had to dig deeper. 

Bob Bogash is a passionate man, but while this story is about Boeing, you might want to take a look at the man himself because he is probably respected and vilified by a lot of Boeing employees. First, check out Bob and his background here: http://www.rbogash.com. Now, you need to look at the website he put together with his (and thousands of others) view of the state of the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company: http://www.rbogash.com/boeing_delay.html. This is a stinging indictment of the management and practices of present-day Boeing so we dug a bit deeper after we got the anonymous website tip and followed-up with a bit of research. No doubt the company water cooler philosophers have their views, however, we sought other respected, retired executives and managers and got the following amazing responses:  

“The bottom line is that The Boeing Company, and Boeing Commercial Airplanes in particular, have always been run by people who “grew up” in the company and had actually executed programs: T. Wilson, Jack Steiner, Frank Shrontz, Ron Woodard, Dean Thornton, Alan Mulally, and Phil Condit, just to name a few. To effectively manage Boeing Commercial Airplanes, the leader must have a solid experience base there so he or she can independently “check the pulse.”  Wilson simply called his network of friends to find the truth about programs or walked out on the factory floor. Condit had his version of the same, as did Mulally.”   

“The current BCA CEO and the current Boeing Company CEO do not have any BCA program experience and therefore neither of them has a basis for knowing when they are being misled, told half-truths, or otherwise being given ‘get well proposals’ that don’t make sense. They have no perspicacity when it comes to managing the commercial airplane business.  And – during 2008 they forced out the only senior people who did. Harvard Business School teaches a good manager can manage anything.  Stanford Business School teaches a good manager can manage that which he knows about.  The Boeing Company clearly requires the latter, but the Board of Directors has put the former in charge of The Company.  Boeing Commercial Airplanes is no better off.  The current CEO came from the defense side and has no experience running successful (airplane) programs.  Connexion-By-Boeing should have been a clue. Both of these men, in the right position, are probably fantastic managers. They currently appear to be out of their realm.”  

“There is a larger problem that started with the acquisition of then McDonnell Douglas  – a company whose culture focused on personal achievement rather than on customer satisfaction and shareholder value.  The integration of these two cultures has been, and continues to be, traumatic – witness Mr. Sears going to jail, Mr. Stonecipher’s ethics lapse, Mr. Condit’s early exit, and the continuing exodus of seasoned Commercial Airplane & Boeing Aerospace executives. On the developmental program side, Boeing Commercial Airplane’s history was one focused on getting it right the first time, absolutely knowing and meeting customer expectations, and never being late – no matter what the cost. This industry does not forgive and does not forget.  Maintaining design responsibility at Boeing, having a staff and project check-and-balance, focusing relentlessly on configuration control, and backstopping troubled suppliers where hallmarks of every developmental program.  BCA lost that on the 787 program… enough said.” 

Often, criticisms from outside a technically focused company don’t really hit the mark because of the technical nature of the product and it’s changing nature…not to mention the cultural changes affecting people and organizations over time. You will have to be the judge, but we discovered a quiet, but real, retiree revolution with campaigners sending over 2000 emails each day to Bogash. Detractors of his website message don’t seem to exist because, according to Mr. Bogash he is apparently on-message with most readers. Here is what another respected retiree told IFExpress, “This (website) expresses what knowledgeable retirees feel. We get together and discuss these issues. We have all read Bob’s website and can only say “AMEN.” We think the problem is also expressed by the havoc in the auto and financial industry as well. They Just Don’t Get It!!!! They are all novices at the problems of designing/building/certifying a commercial airliner. The real sad part of it is we think it is too late to ever get back to where we all showed what’s needed to be done, and by whom, if there is a chance to succeed.” 

While these few words do not do justice to all the people we talked to, the level of disgust at the present day state of affairs at Boeing is deafening. We found no one disagreeing with Mr. Bogash.  When we talked with Bob we can report that he truly lives and breathes for change within Boeing. He and his “guerilla army” have sought any number of ways to get his/their message to Boeing employees, managers, executives and brass at the highest level. Boeing’s response to the efforts; “Tepid… at best.” Bob went on, “Our goal is to communicate that the company is in a state of denial and without change, the outcome for Boeing looks grim.” 

Readers might want to pickup the following book for even more enlightening reading matter. We suggest a historical knowledge of Boeing stock prices would be of use in doing so! http://www.amazon.com/You-Cant-Order-Change-Turnaround/dp/1591842395/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1236627694&sr=8-2

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