Boeing Frontiers
November 2003
Volume 02, Issue 07
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
My View

Setting our course today for tomorrow

Phil Condit
Chairman and CEO

Phil ConditOn weekends I try to do something where I can see the results immediately, like mowing a lawn or planting trees. This is because during the week, most of the decisions, strategies and plans I work on with the business units and staff take years, if not decades, to come to fruition.

By almost any standard, aerospace is one of the longest-term businesses there is. When we make a decision to go forward with a new commercial airplane, a new launch vehicle or a new broadband mobile communications system, we're making a decision on a product line that will likely be in service for at least half a century. And, to be successful, it has to fit markets over that whole time period.

Nobody designs a car or a refrigerator with the idea it's going to be in service for 50 years or more. Yet look at the 737, which first flew in 1967. Today we're still building new—and technologically far more advanced—737s at a healthy rate on a modern, moving assembly line. These new airplanes will remain in service for more than 30 years. So here's an evolving product line that will last at least 66 years with no indication we're anywhere near ending production.

Boeing's market strategies, too, have the same long-term focus. For instance, we believe very deeply in network-centric operations and that NCO is the key to the future of the military. We're working hard on that strategy today because we believe that NCO will be important for at least the next 50 years.

How do we formulate strategies? A lot of Boeing people—including business-unit leaders and marketing people—are involved in understanding the markets, the customers, and where they're going. Our strategies have grown out of much research and discussion.

In formulating Boeing's long term commercial strategies we first ask: What are the enduring needs? What is the world going to look like 20, 30, even 50 years out? How might markets change? Are there disruptive technologies? What are the big, driving, fundamental factors? And the most critical question: What are the economics?

Where there may be disruptive technologies, we have to make sure we understand them as thoroughly as possible. We must make our long-term decisions from a knowledgeable position—supported by our core competency of detailed customer knowledge and focus.

With military markets it's the same thing. The enduring need there is the proverbial “high ground.” How does the military get the advantage? If we can help our forces see what the opponent is doing first, and make good decisions faster than the opponent can, our forces are tremendously advantaged. That's the enduring need that drives network-centric operations, a business opportunity where Boeing's core competency in large-scale systems integration is truly significant.

The reality is, if it's possible to be more efficient, if it's possible to make an airplane or satellite that is more economical, somebody is going to do it. It's far better that we do it than somebody else. When a company is lean, competitive and offers good products at prices that people want, the economics create new business opportunities—and new jobs.

But no matter how robust and well-thought-out our strategies are, Boeing won't be around to see the future unless we run healthy core businesses and execute superbly. Profits from today's programs provide the funds for future programs.

At Boeing, we truly do rocket science. We work on exciting things, things that amaze people, things that are almost magical. Just look at the number of people who gather to watch a shuttle launch, or the fascination around next month's Centennial of Flight. You can bet the 100th anniversary of the invention of the home refrigerator won't evoke that same kind of feeling.

The leadership of this company has worked together with business unit experts to form strong, robust strategies. Now it is everybody's job at Boeing to execute. If we do it right, if we run healthy core businesses and execute well, we can build a prosperous, exciting future—building the future generations of “magical” products and services.


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