Boeing Frontiers
July 2003
Volume 02, Issue 03
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CHALLENGING ‘CAN’T DOS’Faced with the re-direction of a mid-1990s NASA requirement for human space flight hardware to promote offset trade, a Boeing team went to the other end of the contracting spectrum and landed a pioneering deal based on commercial practices.

In the process the team, part of Integrated Defense Systems's NASA Systems group, transformed an organization designed for doing business with a massive U.S. government agency into a nimble, global and largely "virtual" team. In the five years since it signed the first contract, the program reports revenues of approximately $200 million.

Today, the NASA Systems Space Utilization, Japanese Programs, organization consists of about 30 Boeing people who administer and account for five contracts that supply human-rated space hardware and engineering services to three Japanese prime contractors. These contractors will use the components to build Japanese-supplied modules for the International Space Station.

Meg Renton, Boeing Japanese Programs director, said her team "pushes the boundaries every day" in order to meet customer and Boeing objectives. "We constantly challenge the 'can't dos,'" she said. Indeed, right from the start the group had to wrangle the funds to rework the bid proposal from government to commercial, not an inexpensive proposition because of the bid's international scope.

It took leadership for the team to see the potential, challenge established government program methods and transform itself into a radically different organization that is worldwide in scope and operates on a commercial basis, Renton said.

The team's biggest challenge was the transition to an efficient, commercial business model, an unprecedented role reversal at Boeing five years ago. In its new role, Boeing serves as a subcontractor to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Aerospace, IHI Aerospace, and NEC TOSHIBA Space Systems Ltd. These companies are building the Centrifuge Accommodation Module and Japanese Experiment Module for Japan's National Space Development Agency, soon to be renamed the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

In servicing the new contracts, the Boeing team has evolved into a highly virtual organization that operates around the clock across three continents.

This flexible, lean and responsive international business structure "is where [Boeing is] going for new business, where new business in the future is going to be," Bastin said.

Key to the transformation was creating a work "microenvironment" that is fast-paced, 24-hour, and virtual, Renton said. Two of the group's main suppliers are located in The Netherlands and Switzerland. Its Boeing touch points stretch across the United States and include Huntsville, Ala., Houston and Canoga Park, Calif. Although the program is based in Huntington Beach, Calif., and managed out of Houston, team members are rarely at their desks because of the heavy travel schedule. "We are a real example of Boeing global," Renton said.

"We are all on the go constantly, and have adapted to a world of multiple time zones, e-mail, remote computer access and cell phone teleconferences."

—Paul Proctor


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