Don't Make Boeing's Mistake Your Mistake

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

It’s been just about a week since Boeing 737 Max airplanes were grounded around the world. We’ve heard from politicians, safety experts and airline passengers but surprisingly little from Boeing itself. They’ve posted a half-hearted statement on their website indicating their support of the action taken but no large scale communication initiative has been undertaken by the company.

There are 2 types of actions an organization can take to address critical issues. The first is preventive, where a known problem can be mitigated before it occurs. It seems as if this opportunity may have come to Boeing even before the Lion Air plane crash. Recent reports suggest that safety training for pilots may have been compromised to help save money and time in getting the planes out to their customers, all in the name of keeping pace with their major competitor Airbus.

The second line of action is contingent action and that is where you have to react to a problem. In these situations, you want to move swiftly and communicate your actions so that you get caught up to the problem, have a chance to resolve it and avoid worsening any public relations nightmares. It seems that here, as well, Boeing has fallen short by not preempting government decisions and keeping the public informed of their plans to remedy the situation.

While you may not think that your organization has to face the same challenges as Boeing, opportunities to respond preventatively and contingently happen every day in the workplace. Your best sales person leaves, and you have no plans to replace her; a subpar manager loses yet another rising star; you know you are not staffed up at your call center when you are preparing to roll out a new product offering and just hope your customers don’t notice.

Mistakes happen in the workplace. That is inevitable. Your response is what ameliorates the situation and helps ensure that your reputation remains intact. If you can get ahead of them, do so. If you can’t, acknowledge the mistake and move quickly to inform every one of your plans.

Your challenge this week: Be bold in responding to known and uncovered problems. Don’t let them fester and see how quickly you can put them behind you. You’ll see your team grateful that you are taking action and your customers and clients won’t think your dodging a problem.

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2019


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1 thought on “Don't Make Boeing's Mistake Your Mistake”

  1. Terry Sue Griffin

    Spot on lessons. The harder part is preventing. My hubby is an aviation mechanic, and in that world, Boeing’s decisions are a very hot topic. He tells me that the training simulations never presented the option of a failed sensor (the system has a single sensor, so failure is considered catastrophic). Boeing assumed that pilots would recognize a sensor failure and respond to it as a runaway actuator, and turn the system off. But the failure happened incrementally, just a few degrees off, which the pilots adjusted for. However, they could not continue to adjust after a certain point. So, the trouble points were a single sensor in a new system, an assumption of what pilots would do faced with a sensor failure, and no pilot training on how to recognize and respond to system failure.

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