Lean helps connect our dots
Since this time last year, Boeing scores are down sharply in job security, down slightly in the belief that this is a good company to work for, and down in the belief that we are making the changes necessary to compete. (See story.)
On the other hand, Boeing scores are up in employee involvement and overall job satisfaction. In fact, the survey indicates that job satisfaction goes up as a direct result of an employee's having been involved in Lean Enterprise and other related activities.
It's not terribly surprising that people feel insecure about their jobs and about Boeing, given the adjustments we've had to make since Sept. 11. We're working our way through some very tough times. Overall, people clearly perceive that we're changing a lot of stuff. I have to believe that a certain percentage simply disagree with the types of decisions we are making. I think many also wonder whether all this change is really improving our ability to compete ... or whether we are changing everything just so we can say we're doing something. I can assure you, these changes are for a reason and are part of a strategy and that strategy is to improve our competitiveness through a variety of ways.
I am encouraged by the survey results indicating that employees' involvement in Lean and related initiatives translates into greater job satisfaction. Operating a Lean enterprise directly affects our ability to win new business in today's atmosphere of intense competition. I know some people think we're doing Lean just because we like it; or because it's the flavor of the month; or because all we care about is cutting costs. But we do it for one overarching reason: to help us sell more of our products so that we can have more secure jobs, build stronger communities and return greater value to our shareholders. It's all connected.
If we emphasize a particular subject, as we do with Lean and reducing our costs in this issue of Boeing Frontiers, that doesn't mean we don't care about anything else. Lean is an important part of improving the company's ability to compete. It's not the whole thing. We still have to understand our customers. We still have to design, build and support great, high-quality products that truly meet our customers' needs. Boeing still has to provide a safe workplace, challenging assignments and excellent compensation and benefits to employees. We still have to support our communities. And we have to do all this in a way that enables us to sell our products at prices our customers can afford and at margins that will attract and hold shareholders. It's a total picture; and it takes a big effort.
We are currently in a knock-down-drag-out competition to sell commercial airplanes, and price is what often determines the outcome. That's difficult for a lot of people to accept. For years and years, no airline ever said, "It's the price of the airplane that made the difference in why we chose it." They'd always talk about its performance, what comforts it provided—even when price was, indeed, the driver behind the scenes. But look at what you do in your personal life. What stores do you shop at? How do you make the decisions that you make? I'm willing to bet that price is not incidental. Most people don't go in and say, "I'll take this whatever the price is." Most look at whatever it is, check out the quality, turn over the price tag, and say, "Well, I think I'll go look somewhere else to see if I can't get the same or better quality for a better price."
That's what Lean is about. Our Vision 2016 says we operate a Lean enterprise. Lean is anything that helps us get more efficient, that prompts us to ask and answer the questions, "Can I do this task with significantly less waste? Is this work organized in a way that people and paper don't travel long distances to get the job done? Are the things we need to do the job readily at hand? Is there a lot of wasted motion in the system?" I want us to think of our Lean Enterprise in a very broad way to capture all sorts of things. It isn't limited to the shop floor or to people who wear Boeing employee badges. It's also how we get all of our suppliers and partners involved so that the whole process from front to back, from raw material to customer is efficient. So it includes Accounting; it includes Engineering; it includes suppliers; and yes, it includes you.
We're doing some really great, exciting things with Lean, and you can read about a few of them in this issue. But remember they are just the tip of the iceberg. Our opportunity to do more is huge.
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