When Profits Create Problems: What can we learn from Boeing?

Episode #285 // “If you make decisions in isolation, you're likely to miss the implications of those decisions on the whole ecosystem, and this is often where the cracks begin to appear.”

Like many of you, I’ve done quite a bit of flying over the course of my adult life. I’m not a nervous flyer at all, but I’m always interested to see what’s happening in the world of commercial aviation.

This bumper episode is a mini case study on Boeing, which has been in the news again recently – for all the wrong reasons. Another mid-air incident in January (which, fortunately, didn’t result in any serious injuries) has thrust the aircraft manufacturer back into the spotlight.

Some of the contributing factors can be traced back to decisions that were made decades ago. There are some important lessons in this for everyone, regardless of the industry or country you’re working in.

In this episode, I explore some important questions:

  • Do Boeing’s problems stem purely from corporate greed?
  • If not, what other forces are at work?
  • Does a perfectionistic culture deliver the best results? 
  • How do you improve a company’s commercial performance, without sacrificing safety and reliability?
  • What components of your value chain should you seek to outsource?
  • Is it possible to effectively transfer risk to a supplier?

You won’t have to deal with issues that are this public or dramatic very often, but if you can learn from the Boeing experience, it may prevent you from stepping on some of the same landmines.


Source Material: 

Wall Street Journal article:

"This has been going on for years". Inside Boeing's Manufacturing Mess

The Atlantic article:

What's Gone Wrong at Boeing

Reuter’s article:

Boeing 737 Max9 door plug bolts appeared to be missing on Alaska Jet, NTSB says

No Bullsh!t Leadership episodes:

Ep.95: The Joys of Outsourcing

Ep.31: Don't Shoot the Messenger

Wikipedia Profiles:

Alan Mulally

Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Spirit AeroSystems


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