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2002 Speeches
Laurette Koellner

Laurette Koellner

Shared Services President

The Boeing Company

"The Evolving Role of Managers and Leaders"

National Management Association

Boeing Space Coast Chapter

February 21, 2002

Thank you very much for inviting me to join you this evening.

I'm very pleased to be the guest of the National Management Association, an organization marked by the commitment of its members to enhance their individual management skills, and to come together to exchange ideas about leadership. The NMA is also a place where we can all learn more about Boeing.

The Boeing business unit that I lead is the Shared Services Group. I was asked to give an overview of our organization tonight, so I will do that, and then I'd like to speak a little bit about the evolving role of leadership and management. And, I'll make sure there's time for questions or suggestions at the end.

Shared Services is a team of approximately 18,000 Boeing people and thousands of supplier partners working together to deliver products and services inside Boeing -- to give Boeing a competitive edge. Simply stated, we provide the infrastructure services that allow the revenue-generating business units to focus on running and growing their businesses.

The types of services include the global computing and network infrastructure of the company, including the building blocks for e-business, payroll, employee programs -- from recruitment to education -- and benefits, security and fire protection, safety, travel, facilities and real estate, and non-production procurement.

Non-production procurement includes all the things we need to support our products that don't end up or "fly away" on our products -- more than $3 billion a year worth of laptop computers, tooling equipment, office products, trucks and more. Some of these services, such as payroll, are provided on a company-wide basis, and others, such as facilities, are provided at our very large locations like Seattle, St. Louis and Southern California.

Shares Services maintains over 116 million square feet of building space for Boeing around the United States and in five other countries. We've got a fleet of vehicles to move people, parts and data to where they are needed and when they are needed.

We provide training to make us all more productive. Our Shared Services team also provides enterprise-wide library services, printing, video, writing, editing and graphic services.

We partner with our business-unit customers to anticipate their service needs. We provide these services in a manner that gives Boeing a competitive edge through economies of scale.

Let me give you an idea of exactly the kind of scale I am taking about, why we are able to be a cost-effective and a "best in class" provider:

Obviously, an enterprise as vast as Boeing can deliver products and services more efficiently if we use common processes, avoid duplication and leverage our size to procure things at a lower cost. That was the original thinking about SSG -- economies of scale. And we have successfully removed more than $1 billion from the infrastructure of Boeing over the past three years. We're working on another half a billion dollars this year, and at least $250M more next year.

In addition to providing services, Shared Services is tasked to set Boeing standards. By that I mean that any time a Boeing employee or enterprise partner sets foot into a Boeing facility anywhere in the world, he or she can be assured that certain safety standards are in place, certain security standards are in place, that his or her laptop will work when it is plugged in, and so on.

And finally, our role includes making investments for the enterprise and leveraging technology and innovation across the enterprise. This has become more important since we announced that our World Headquarters will play less of a tactical role in running the company, and will reserve its involvement for strategic focus.

So today, in Shared Services we are working as business partners with the Boeing business units, are contributing members of their teams, and are making sure customers get what they need to enhance their bottom line.

In Shared Services our role is to provide you with the tools necessary to be effective today and in the future.

I would like to shift now to what I view as the leadership opportunities and challenges we face as we move forward.

First, I would like to share some ideas about why our leadership role is changing and offer ideas on how we can be more effective leaders in our increasingly dynamic environment.

We work in a fast-changing and evolving world. And we work in a fast-changing and evolving industry. Today's leaders, and the leaders of the future, must manage that change to keep us competitive. And we must do so in a world in which the nature of leadership itself is changing. I believe this is our challenge ... and I also believe this is our opportunity.

What is it that's happening in our workplaces that is causing the need for us to take a new look at leadership styles, and even a new look at the very role of leadership?

I believe the primary driver of this new look at leadership is how work is being performed. Work is being performed more and more by teams, not by individual contributors, not by individual departments, not by individual companies, and not even by individual countries.

Whether we are speaking of the smallest of businesses or massive global companies or even of world powers ... our work is completed and teams are accomplishing our goals. The ability to collaborate has become the key to the success of an enterprise.

What is causing this? One factor is that the primary tool of today's employee is intellectual capital. As well as skills, each team member brings to the table brains, thoughts, and ideas. Today's employee recognizes that the power of ideas is multiplied many-fold through collaboration.

Today's employees need leaders who are coaches and mentors, leaders who provide tools to support collaboration, and leaders who can successfully create an atmosphere where ideas flow and creativity is heightened. Today's employee is not a "worker" who will stand for a command-and-control environment. Successful leaders of today -- and tomorrow -- are leaders who have been able to evolve just as our workforce has evolved.

In addition to teams, another factor that has caused the evolution of leaders is technology. We collaborate across companies now because we can. We collaborate across industries and up and down the value chain because we can. We collaborate across the world because we can. We collaborate because it adds value to our companies and to our organizations

Technology has enabled us to team with people we've never seen, to team with people whose language we don't speak, to team with people without the boundaries of geography and time. Our world grows smaller every single day.

Here's a perfect example of how our teams operate in our "connected' world and one that you are familiar with: the International Space Station Team. The International Space Station is the largest and most complex space venture ever undertaken. Think about this: 16 countries, each with its own tools and parts, assembling a structure as large as a 777 while it's flying almost 200 miles above the Earth at 26,000 miles per hour.

This journey is made possible not through the efforts of any single space agency, not through a single nation, and not through any single company, but through the strength and common purpose of a team on the highest level. The International Space Station is a powerful symbol -- your symbol -- of what members of a great team can accomplish by using the tools of technology and collaboration. It is a symbol of the tremendous possibilities open to us during this new millennium.

So the evolving role of teams and technology affects our role as leaders. Let's talk about how we respond, as leaders, to these factors.

Today leaders must create shared ownership throughout the enterprise in a way that is creative and focused. Everyone on the team -- including customers and suppliers -- must understand -- and be attuned to -- the team's mission in order to create the most value for everyone. Now this bit about everyone understanding the mission may sound trite, but it's really, really important. It's important because everyone basically wants to do a good job.

In order to do a good job, the team needs to know what the expectations are, what the deliverables are, and how what they are doing fits into the bigger picture.

It's critical for leaders to be able to help everyone understand the mission. This is a big change -- it used to be that leaders told individual people what their individual job was, and people seldom got to see the big picture. It can't be that way anymore.

Leaders need to remove bureaucracy, making way for teams to be more flexible and adaptable to change. This to may sound trite, but think about it. This is the opposite of what leaders used to do. Leaders used to enforce the bureaucracy; now they need to remove it.

The people doing the work must be trusted and empowered -- they need to be able to do things themselves. They need to be able to make decisions and see results immediately, so that they can make mid-course corrections and mid-course improvements. And so that the team -- and the project -- is able to move swiftly toward its goal, the goal that everyone understands.

Leaders need to involve more people. The old adage of "if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself" doesn't fit in today's workplace. Everyone contributes to the smooth operation of the organization. If you can't work together, then prepare to be surpassed.

Leaders need to link people to each other and each other's ideas. Technology plays an important role here. At Boeing our objective is instant access to information by anyone from anywhere. E-enabling the work environment is one way to bring people closer together, to connect their ideas. E-enabling and virtual office tools break down the barriers created by geography, by language, by time. This is a big change for leadership.

Remember, in the past it was the leader's role to bring information to people. Information is power, and the leader had all the information -- and power.

Today, the leader doesn't bring information to the team, but enables the team to access information -- sharing the so-called power. Basically, the leader needs to make information available to people on teams and those on the frontline. These people make the day-to-day decisions and take actions that affect our business, our customers, and our suppliers. These people know what to do.

Your role is changing. How will you allow information to flow to the front line where good decisions can be made? I challenge you to look for opportunities to make sure employees who need information get it and can act on it.

The leaders of today and tomorrow will serve not as information barriers but as information facilitators, keeping the flow of information going up and down and sideways, and across geographic barriers.

And yet, leaders must know when to make decisions and help their teams in the decision-making process. Again, decision-making should be moved to the lowest possible levels, and decisions are best when diverse opinions are sought and considered. But business is not a democracy. Even effective teams can stall-out and lose valuable time striving for consensus in every possible decision. Leaders must set the expectations of how and when decisions will be made. And in some cases, leaders must step in and make tough, unpopular decisions -- after having listened to the team.

Leaders need to take action. Business today is about action, bold action. Leaders must support people in the risk-taking that is essential ... not only for their personal growth, but also for the growth of the organization of the company. Now I'm not speaking of risk involving the safety or integrity of the product or the brand. I'm speaking of encouraging personal risk, career risk. Leaders need to encourage people to take new assignments that broaden their knowledge and scope. Again, a new role for some leadership, not all leaders.

Leaders used to never want to lose a high performer from their teams; now good leaders encourage movement and rotations. Sharing ideas, sharing talent, sharing creativity, enhancing teams.

As leaders, we need to focus on people. Our vision is "people working together as a global enterprise for aerospace leadership." Our vision very purposefully starts with the word "people." We can never lose sight of the fact that our strength and competitive advantage is -- and always will be -- people.

Our CEO, Phil Condit, speaks very eloquently about this, and I could never do it justice, but the way he sums it up is: We work very hard and are very successful at delivering leading edge technology. We can work for years at a particular technology and be the first to market, but a competitor can come along and duplicate that technology immediately. However, they can't duplicate people. People are our competitive advantage. We can never lose sight of the fact that leaders need to focus on people every minute of every day.

Learning is a key component of managing change. Learning from each other is a big part of that. Individual learning is important too. As managers, we need to look at each employee and think about his or her strengths and potential. Part of that process is asking people about their goals and interest -- and working with people to provide training and career-development opportunities.

A Shared Services program that has made a difference in so may lives, and in the life of our company, is the Learning Together Program that provides college tuition reimbursement. We're building a better workforce and developing employees by enabling them to attain higher education. Last year, 30,000 employees participated. Fifteen hundred graduated with degrees.

As managers, we also have the power to make an employee's job satisfying or frustrating. And that is quite a power. The most important measure of anyone's job satisfaction is not how terrific the company might be. It is how terrific that person's boss is. Think about your own career. What made the difference between good and bad job experiences? Was it the job? Chances are it was your immediate supervisor

Great places to work are organizations with great financial performance. Companies on the Fortune "Best Companies to work For in America" Top 100 list outperform the S&P 500.

Leaders must keep evolving. We need to think of ourselves in new ways. We'll be tested in new ways. We'll lead and team in new ways. And we will relate to customers and partners in new ways. We will forge new alliances and networks, and our ability to team and to work well together on teams will be crucial to our success -- and to our company's success.

Companies and organizations that "get it" will be the companies and organizations that thrive -- and profit.

So to sum up these thoughts on leadership, our workforce is continually evolving -- and good leaders should empower that evolution. And good leaders need to evolve as well. It's far more difficult to hold and maintain leadership than it is to attain it.

You are leaders -- by dreaming and developing ideas about things that have never before been done. Boeing and this Florida Site have participated in every American human space flight program. A Boeing logo appears on virtually everything that is being launched into space today, including fairings and engines on our competitors' rockets. You deliver by leading in providing world-class engineering and technical expertise, and you are recognized as NASA's leading aerospace contractor. Through your leadership, you are engaging our people in making these things possible.

We at The Boeing Company and those interested in continued advances in space flight throughout the world rely on your continued leadership.

Thank you for having me here this evening. It has been a tremendous pleasure.