February 2006 
Volume 04, Issue 9 
Integrated Defense Systems

Getting an assist

Getting an assist

Knowing when to seek help means knowing how to take care of biz


In business, asking for help has traditionally been synonymous with weakness or inability, and speaking up could derail a career. But that perception is changing, thanks in part to Help Needed. That's Boeing's name for the management strategy for creating efficiencies by solving problems—ideally before they arise.

Help Needed is considered such an important element to the success of Boeing it's a cornerstone of the eight Program Management Best Practices. Managers are expected to create an environment for their teams to identify, surface and solve problems. That's good for employees—and the bottom line.

The Help Needed process is simple: An appeal for assistance is communicated by an individual or group to co-workers and/or management, who then work together to address the situation. Solutions range from an informal request to leave the electricity on over the weekend to a structured problem-solving process a growing number of managers use in weekly briefings. Their Help Needed charts outline the type of assistance required, associated risks and issues, the times when help is needed, and the people who can provide it.

Get help, get results

Here's how Help Needed has assisted two Integrated Defense Systems programs.

• One million dollars. That's what it would have cost the X-45A Joint Unmanned Combat Air System to create and test data on electrical power quality, had a Help Needed request not been issued. Instead of reinventing the wheel, management requested and received critical information from the F-22 Raptor program. This enabled J-UCAS to stay on schedule and budget.
"It's an incredibly powerful tool, especially when it's accepted by your customer," said J-UCAS Vice President and Program Manager Dave Koopersmith. "But it needs to be used properly. People should react to a Help Needed request as a gift instead of finger pointing or tattling."

• With its geographically dispersed work force, Future Combat Systems is similar to many Boeing programs that have employees working in different time zones, environments and cultures. But FCS has overcome some of its geographic challenges through Help Needed, while enhancing performance and building teamwork. There is a formal, closed-loop process, and weekly staff meetings end with an informal "around-the-country" call for assistance. This has made employees more comfortable sharing problems and overcoming their natural tendency to ask for help from people they know or who are in their same location.

"Help Needed sets an attitude across a program and drives a leadership behavior that enables every employee—which is where all the power is," said Dennis Muilenburg, vice president and general manager of FCS.

"What's important in this process is when people ask for help, the entire team rolls up its sleeves and figures out how to jump in and really help," said Tony Parasida, vice president of Boeing Maritime Systems, who has used Help Needed with teams on several programs during his 27-year career at Boeing. "The worst thing that can happen is someone requests assistance and gets 10 action items. When that's the outcome, they are not going to ask for help again."

To combat reluctance employees might have about speaking up, Parasida and his P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft leadership team also regularly offer assistance. "We have a lot of information, contacts with other programs and lessons we learned the hard way that can make their jobs easier and build their skills," Parasida said.

The right attitude is a key to Help Needed success. Parasida advises his managers to get comfortable using Help Needed in all directions—with team members, peers and senior leaders. This candor also is a strategy that's important to strengthening relationships with customers, partners and suppliers.

"Suppliers are an extension of our employees. When a supplier asks for help, we need to jump on it as hard as when our teams need help. And that same attitude should flow down their supply chains as well," Parasida said.

He recalled an instance when a supplier was worried about Boeing not providing data in a timely fashion. "They thought we'd say, 'go away, it's not our problem.' But they were pleasantly surprised by our attitude and the way we aggressively laid out a plan to keep them working productively," he said.

Help Needed doesn't eliminate surprises, but it does promote open communication and early identification of issues. It also prevents teams from struggling and enables them to find better ways of getting the job done. Said Parasida: "We are not going to be successful unless we are all successful together."

For more information, visit https://pm.web.boeing.com (internal link only) on the Boeing Web.


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