February 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 9 
Cover Story


Team leaders motivate, move the company forward


Jerry LinesAt Boeing manufacturing locations companywide, employees are turning the promise of the company's Vision 2016 mission statement-"People working together as a global enterprise for aerospace leadership"-into a reality that benefits stakeholders.

Over the past nine years-about as long as Vision 2016 has been around-Boeing and some of its unions have forged unique working-together relationships to ensure Boeing's success in an increasingly challenging global market. These relationships are having lasting impacts on the workers who participate and on the company's ability to compete.


Across the company, union leadership and Boeing have been taking a hard look at how work gets done on the factory floor. At facilities across the United States, Integrated Defense Systems and Commercial Airplanes have witnessed changing employee roles in manufacturing and increasing commitment to company goals. Because of language incorporated into several union contracts across the company, thousands of hourly employees are now making process improvements outside of their traditional job structures. The company, as provided for in union contracts, has established new leadership roles called "team leaders." The employees who fill these roles are elected or selected by their peers, or by management after a rigorous application and interview process.

Team leaders are leaders of naturally existing work groups in factories across Boeing. Such groups include work cells, High Performance Work Organization teams and Employee Involvement teams. The teams focus on quality, cost, safety, and customer issues related to production with an emphasis on ongoing process improvement.

"Employee engagement-letting people make the decisions that affect their work-gives employees opportunities they might not have had otherwise," said Jack Jones, Flight Operations director for Commercial Airplanes' Everett, Wash., site and team leader champion.

Team leader roles can include such duties as

Allocating work based on crew availability.

Developing and maintaining team performance metrics.

Leading or facilitating meetings.

Acting as a single point of contact for guiding work tasks and team communications.

Motivating peers.

"The company wants employees to have a say in what they do," said Jerry Lines, Electrical Discharge Machining lead and team leader in Canoga Park, Calif. "Team leader roles are a big change, but it lets people know the company believes in teaming."


Answers to several questions about the team leader concept

Allocate work based on crew availability.
Develop and maintain team performance metrics.
Lead or facilitate meetings.
Act as a single point of contact for guiding work tasks and team communications.
Motivate peers.

They help organize the area and the people, and they communicate with others in the shop about changes.
They help first-line supervisors to communicate by sharing information with coworkers about forthcoming changes or potential problems.
They free up managers, who can then focus on addressing big-picture topics, including larger, systemic production challenges.
They help improve Boeing's customer focus, quality, safety and financial performance.

They enhanced personal job satisfaction: Puget Sound team leaders currently experience about 2 percent attrition, compared to a 4.75 percent attrition rate companywide.
The spars group in Renton, Wash., which has had team leaders playing active roles for one year, saw notable production improvements between the third quarter 2003 and the third quarter 2004:

10% Reduction in man-hours per airplane.

53% Decrease in overtime hours worked.

59% Drop in lost work day case rate.

55% Decline in quality costs per airplane.

Check these pages on the Boeing Web:
Employee Involvement Team Leader Web page: http://rdweb.rdyne.bna.boeing.com/hrc/employee/ ei/index1.htm
High Performance Work Organization Web page: http://www.ams.stl.mo.boeing.com/d063c/hpwo
Team Leader Web page for the Puget Sound area of Washington state, Wichita, Kan., and Portland, Ore.: http://bcag.boeing.com/proccoun/







The process that's sprung from these union agreements is "putting the right people in leadership roles," Jones said, resulting in better skill allocation and more satisfied employees.

"I'd been on the machine so long, and doing a lot of other things in the area too, that I could see where I could do more to help processes along and make a difference," Lines said. He was elected team leader in 1996, shortly after the program began for employees belonging to the United Auto Workers union in Canoga Park.

When teams form, natural leaders emerge and are elected or selected, allowing optimal use of an employee's skills, abilities and desire to be a leader or facilitator. Strong leaders can motivate others, inspire others to accept change and resolve problems. This makes leaders feel successful and better facilitates the company's business strategy.

"Team leaders help organize the area and the people, and they communicate with others in the shop about changes to the plan," said Rick Britt, first-line supervisor of a spars crew in Renton, Wash. "They help first-line supervisors to communicate by sharing information with their coworkers about changes coming down the line, or problems to anticipate."

Putting the decision making for daily issues at the shop-floor level ultimately empowers workers.

"Team leader roles allow employees to take ownership of what they do, take responsibility and take initiative," Britt added. "Our team leaders tackle tough problems on a daily basis when managers are away doing other things."

And managers are seeing the results. First-line managers in the Spars shop report that their team leaders "really help free us up to focus on the bigger picture, meet one-on-one with our people" and tackle larger, more systemic challenges in the production system.

When people feel their job is making the best use of their skills and abilities, they tend to report higher job satisfaction as well.

"Puget Sound team leaders currently experience about 2 percent attrition," Jones said, an indication they are satisfied with their new role when compared to a 4.75 percent attrition rate companywide. Since the team leader concept was instituted in Puget Sound in 2002, more than 1,100 team leaders have been selected for BCA, IDS and Shared Services groups.


Another benefit from team leader roles is they emphasize and promote employee development.

"Everyone who's part of an HPWO group goes through 16 hours of team member training," said Greg Cotton, HPWO team leader and facilitator in St. Louis. "Team leaders then take additional training, as do managers and union shop stewards." Participants learn how to run teams effectively, how to coach, address problems constructively and interface with other team members.

Both the Employee Involvement and Team Leader programs outline similar extensive training required prior to selection as team leader. Leading teams or crews often requires employees to establish themselves as leaders among their peers and to tackle situations they might not otherwise have faced. Cotton said he's had to stretch in his role as a team-leader facilitator.

"Coaching and conflict management are a big part of what I do, and it was a challenge at first to do that within team meetings," he said.

Team leaders generally say their roles have changed their perspective of the company and where the company's headed, and helped them feel a sense of ownership in their jobs. Some have said that ability to see the big picture has led them to consider management careers.


These improvement programs are a concerted effort on the part of Boeing and participating unions to improve the company's customer focus, quality, safety and more, with the roles and teams that support them proving to be good for the company's bottom line.

For example, of the 234 HPWO teams established, 84 (nearly 36 percent) have reached Stage 4 in their metrics tracking-85 percent of targets green, empowerment schedule score 3.2, and independent self assessment score 3.2, all certified by a steering team. That's a high level of positive achievement in that program.

"Recognition has been a huge motivator," Cotton said. "Two years ago the HPWO program began recognizing teams that achieve Stage 4, and the numbers have increased sevenfold."

Union members in St. Louis also receive a financial incentive, called Production Performance Sharing Plan, recognizing HPWO team efforts. In a five-year period (1998 to 2003), participants received $26 million.

Though the Team Leader program is new to members of the International Association of Machinists union, improvements are visible already. The spars group in Renton has had team leaders playing active roles there for one year. A comparison of data between the third quarter 2003 and the third quarter 2004 reveals definite signs of production improvements:

Man-hours per airplane were down 10 percent.

Overtime hours worked have fallen 53 percent.

The lost work day case rate has dropped 59 percent.

Quality costs per airplane are down 55 percent.

"The team leaders have been a major step forward for the factory employees, support organizations and management teams," said Mark Blakeley, 737 spars general supervisor. "They have quickly become an integral part of our daily management, process improvement activities, and efforts to change the workplace culture."

With positive results such as these, it's evident that people at Boeing-working together in this global enterprise-are contributing leading-edge leadership and driving change in aerospace.



Front Page
Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright
Copyright© Boeing. All rights reserved.