December 2005/January 2006 
Volume 04, Issue 8 
Special Feature

An officer and a gentleman

Dick Paul is using diplomatic skills developed in the U.S. Air Force to build a strong future for Boeing


Dick Paul

Dick Paul at a glance

Current position: Vice president, Strategic Development & Analysis for Phantom Works

Experience: Joined Boeing in 2000 after 33 years with the U.S. Air Force. Served as vice president, Strategic Development, in Phantom Works until 2003, when the Phantom Works Strategic Development and Strategic Assessment organizations were combined and he assumed his current position. During his Air Force career, he served in two Air Force laboratories, a product center, two major command headquarters, Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon, and a joint staff assignment. In his last position, he served as the Air Force Technology Executive Officer and the commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Education: Master's degree in electrical engineering, Air Force Institute of Technology, 1971. Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, University of Missouri-Rolla, 1966.

Former U.S. Air Force Major General Dick Paul has developed some efficient weaponry to fight for Boeing's future. He gets what he wants with kindness ... courtesy ... consideration.

As the head of strategic development and analysis for Phantom Works, Paul is using old-school diplomacy to help Boeing win new world technology business.

His mission: to identify U.S. government technology initiatives that align with Boeing's advanced research and development efforts, help capture associated government R&D contracts, and shape future government technology initiatives. That translates into seeking out and helping to capture millions of dollars, worth of key government technology contracts each year. It also means understanding and communicating Boeing's internal technology objectives to the government through venues such as the Boeing Tech Expos. As if that weren't enough, his organization also performs studies via modeling and simulation for Boeing program managers who need analytical support.

In short, to be effective he must maintain a good working relationship with senior government R&D stakeholders and with key decision makers in Phantom Works and the business units.

"I try to walk in two pairs of shoes—one worn by the customer, the other by Boeing," says Paul.

For example, he might find himself, as he did recently, on an aircraft carrier moored in the San Diego harbor in California, mingling with Navy top brass. His objective at this floating Boeing Tech Expo was to determine the future needs of these potential clients and to cultivate their interest in the enabling technologies Boeing has to offer.

At the same time, as Phantom Works site manager for Puget Sound, he might find himself at an employee meeting having to field some prickly questions on such things as facilities refurbishment or providing updated computing capabilities to the Phantom Works Puget Sound work force.

What does it take to handle those kind of complex and diverse situations?

Experience counts. A strong sense of teamwork helps. But it is Paul's prodigious communications skills, honed over a 33-year Air Force career, that have yielded the right results.

The drill-sergeant image of the military is outdated, Paul points out. Simply issuing orders doesn't get the job done, especially in an R&D environment populated by people who are inquisitive. Explaining the logic and the rationale behind a decision, particularly an unpopular one, is critical if you want credibility and support, he says.

"You have to know your audience, speak their language," says Paul. "You've also got to know your stuff because people can see flimsy propositions and smokescreens from a mile away. You can express yourself without being heavy handed. Don't take too long: You should be able to summarize your thoughts in a matter of minutes. You need to recognize people for the good work they do. And you must always be respectful."

Paul concedes that there are times when you must be prepared to modify or even reverse your opinions. Seeking genuine feedback and acting upon it only makes sense. "That's not the same as capitulation," he says. "When you know you are right, stand your ground."

According to Paul, his toughest assignment and most satisfying accomplishment was the top-to-bottom reorganization of the Air Force labs beginning in 1995. These labs and their 8,000 people were scattered across the country in 10 locations and were facing significant Congressionally-mandated manpower reduction. Paul led an initiative to consolidate the separate labs into the Air Force Research Laboratory, and was then named its first commander.

"It was not a popular move with many, including several in the labs who liked the status quo, various senior officers outside the lab system and some Congressional delegations," says Paul. "It took almost nine months to accomplish, and because rumors fill a vacuum, it demanded nonstop forthright communications with the employees. In the end the consolidation went ahead smoothly. Even though some people didn't agree with what we did, they told me afterwards they understood why it was necessary."

Retired Air Force Gen. Paul Nielsen, a colleague for some 20 years, confirms that Paul has a talent for taking the pain out of drastic change.

"He's been a special role model for leadership in advanced technology," says Nielsen. "He's a strategic leader who helped us to focus technology efforts. At the same time, he left room for respectful dissent and innovation. He shaped the Air Force science and technology community for the future."

 Now Paul is helping to shape Boeing's future. While Nielsen and others use the word "visionary" to describe Paul, he prefers to be thought of as "anticipatory." He bases his prognostications on available information and data about the environment, budget and viewpoints of others he respects.

"Most leaders have to be willing to take some risk," says Paul, who keeps himself informed by serving on some important national organizations. He's a board member of the Industrial Research Institute, for example, and a member of a National Research Council board supporting the Air Force. "Opportunities don't wait until conditions are perfect," he says. "To stay ahead, you have to act before others do."

He sees directed energy for expanded national security applications as one of the next big technology advancements at Boeing and in the industry. "Our future is bright," he says. "We are serving our country and humanity. And we couldn't be in a more exciting business."


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