Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Boeing’s Dreams
February 3, 2009, 2:12 PM
Filed under: Leadership | Tags:

Boeing has been in the news more than is comfortable lately, with several delays to its much-touted Dreamliner 787 delivery and a machinists’ strike in the fall. So the latest Dreamliner delay announced Dec. 11th came as no surprise. But with the bad news came a Christmas present of 15 additional orders for the 787, taking the total to 910 aircraft. It seems that in spite of the delays, the airlines are still confident that Boeing will deliver a game-changing aircraft.


This confidence is most likely due to the leadership skills of their CEO Jim McNerney who took the reins in July of 2005 after the embarrassing departure of Harry Stonecipher. Boeing suffered through several ethical and legal disasters that are still not over, and the company’s reputation was hit hard. In a Business Week article back in March of 2006, McNerney laid out his strategy to change the culture of this massive company. It appears to be working.


In the soon-to-be-released book You Can’t Order Change, Peter Cohan describes the turnaround strategy of McNerney, researched through extensive interviews both outside and inside the company. McNerney’s mantra is “you can’t order change” – thus the title of this book. This phrase implies that change must come from employees if it is to succeed, and Cohan identifies 11 specific leadership challenges and the management imperatives needed to overcome them from his research at Boeing.


The world will be watching as the first flight of the Dreamliner approaches in the second quarter of 2009. But even the intended-to-be-secret competitive research of Boeing’s main competitor Airbus has concluded that the 787 program is solid. Perhaps the maiden flight will also produce an up-tick in book sales for Cohan.


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