Boeing Frontiers
October 2003
Volume 02, Issue 06
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools

Stepping up to the plate

Boeing Phantom Works President Bob Krieger meets challenges head-on—and with economy of style


STEPPING up to the plateOn a December day in 1996, hundreds of guests—including a senator, congressmen and two U.S. Navy admirals—were gathered in St. Charles, Mo., for the ceremonial official delivery of the first Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missile.

Fifteen minutes before the event was about begin, an emergency arose. Word came down that the leader of the ceremony, the Missile Systems vice president at the time, was unable to attend. Without hesitation or preparation, Bob Krieger, then the SLAM-ER program manager, calmly stepped into the glare of the television lights to chair the event and flawlessly deliver a major address.

With predictable modesty, Krieger himself now sees nothing unusual about what he did. But the composure, resourcefulness and adaptability he exhibited that day left a strong impression on some members of the audience. Krieger's flair for managing fast-moving and often complex developments is among the qualities that have distinguished him and resulted in his rise to one of the most critical positions at Boeing.

Krieger is the acting Chief Technology Officer for Boeing and the president of Phantom Works, the company's advanced research and development unit. As such, he has one of the company's ultimate multitasking jobs. As acting CTO he is responsible for carrying on the strategic technology vision for the enterprise, which includes leading the Boeing Engineering Process Council. As Phantom Works president he presides over a global virtual enterprise of up to 500 programs involving thousands of engineers, technologists and scientists.

His challenge: Find new ways to acquire and refine across-the-board affordable technologies for the Boeing business units; and develop advanced systems, such as "X-vehicles," experimental craft, for U.S. government customers. Last year, Phantom Works transitioned some $4 billion worth of technologies to the business units to help improve their bottom lines and transitioned programs into the business units—Future Combat Systems for the U.S. Army, the X-37 space technology demonstrator, and the precision-guided Small Diameter Bomb—to help improve their top lines, or overall revenues, as well.

"That's the way we maximize the value Phantom Works brings to our global enterprise," Krieger said, as he prepared to travel to Moscow for consultations with top Russian technology leaders. "We're here to assume acceptable risk for the business units and the government, to be the catalyst for innovation."

It's ironic that Krieger is now in partnership with the Russian technical community that triggered his interest in aerospace. Krieger was camping with his father and grandfather on Oct. 4, 1957, when they heard the news over their old radio that the Soviet Union had successfully orbited Sputnik I. "It was devastating," he said. "We were suddenly no longer No. 1 in space. I made up my mind there and then that I wanted to work on the space program."

He joined McDonnell Douglas in 1968 hoping to work on the Gemini or Mercury space programs with the intention of staying for three years. "I didn't get to work on those programs," he said, "but I was having so much fun at work that I decided to stay."

Krieger's impressive engineering credentials, breadth of experience and leadership have had an impact on the design and development of many of the U.S. military's premier advanced missile and tactical and strategic aircraft concepts and on space reentry technologies.

Throughout his career he has helped to elevate a variety of technologies that are spearheading today's military transformation—open systems architecture, information integration, hypersonics, combat simulation, advanced flight, advanced materials and high-energy systems, to name a few.

Some point to Krieger's contributions to the Harpoon missile program as his greatest achievement, but he is most proud of his service in the late 1980s as chief engineer on the National AeroSpace Plane X-30 single-stage-to-orbit technology demonstrator. His work on the concept and its ultimate configuration lives on in technologies subsequently adapted for other advanced programs, such as the X-43 Hyper-X scramjet vehicle.

But it's contact with people and their ideas that invigorates Krieger the most.

Krieger the scientist, who produced a doctoral thesis on "potential flow solutions coupled with structural finite element solutions for vehicles with flexible surfaces," is as comfortable in conversation with hands-on manufacturing employees as he is with international leaders of industry and academia. "I prefer the participative style," he said.

"He doesn't allow his Ph.D [degree] to get in the way of listening to people of all skill levels," said David Swain, chief operating officer of Integrated Defense Systems. "And he talks only when it adds value to the discussion."

Informal conversations with graduate school professors, and the resulting realization that they had the same human strengths and weaknesses as everybody else, helped to foster Krieger's egalitarian outlook.

"I have a fundamental faith in people," he said. "There's something good in all of us that we can make even better." Especially, he said, when we share our ideas and skills.

Krieger said he believes that teams of people come up with the best solutions because they are "force multipliers," representing more than the sum of their individual members. The power of combined effort came as a revelation to him during his college education, when he realized that students were far more creative and productive when they got together as a group. Later, as an engineer, he noticed that colleagues working on flow field calculations could come up with solutions as a team that they could not reach as individuals.

That influenced Krieger to make his own leap from individual expert to participative manager fairly early in his career. And well-orchestrated teams have landed some of Phantom Works' biggest prizes. Future Combat Systems and the X-37, now part of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems business unit, drew on the very best technical talent available inside and outside Boeing. These programs are destined to play a major role in the future success of the company.

While he keeps a keen eye on the future, Krieger encourages Phantom Works employees to concentrate on executing their current programs and achieving their goals. "Tackling today's challenges, meetings goals and learning lessons from our successes and failures contributes significantly to our future growth as individuals and a company," he said.

Krieger refers to his own golf game to illustrate his point: "To achieve a rare good shot, I need to concentrate on making each shot to the best of my ability—without being distracted by thoughts of how I might look or blowing the shot—and learn lessons from what I do right and wrong. So concentrating on taking each shot at a time is as important as looking ahead to see where you want to wind up. A healthy balance is needed to improve and grow."

Striking this balance is what Krieger works hard to accomplish in Phantom Works. "Our core values—innovation, agility, technical excellence, risk-taking and entrepreneurial thinking—encourage us to look out to the near- and long-term future while our teams and business units focus on executing their current projects and programs.

"This is what allows us to be a catalyst of innovation for the enterprise and a key element to its future growth."






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