Transforming an enterprise is one of the more daunting challenges associated with keeping a company viable, growing and building its success. Transformation means reinventing and streamlining each business process that impacts customers, quality and service. It requires enterprises to throw out old notions and practices and move out of their comfort zones.
The risks can be great; often companies opt for sticking with what they know. They are afraid of change because they fear failure. Significant shifts in a company’s systems for using information also often mean the political landscape of a company will change. All of these forces freeze a company from changing and growing. Unfortunately, this non-action can be severe in terms of competitive and financial consequences.
I remember showing a résumé from a potential new hire to my boss many years ago. I was sold on this guy and pointed out that the résumé proclaimed that the fellow had 20 years of experience. My boss looked and asked me a very revealing question: Does he have 20 years of experience, or does he have one year of experience 20 times?
The same is true with companies. Companies find a comfort zone and entrench themselves there. It is a strategy for failure. They have to redefine or transform themselves, or they become increasingly irrelevant with each passing year. That irrelevance can manifest itself in an alarmingly rapid manner.
How Boeing Transformed
Boeing’s decision to move forward with the 787 Dreamliner program is an excellent case in point. There was almost nothing within the Dreamliner concept that Boeing had ready to go; no off-the-shelf technology or transferable knowledge from other existing programs. The Dreamliner was a wholly new aircraft. The effort would require new design, new materials, new manufacturing processes executed in new facilities, new knowledge and new skills with new suppliers and new partners.
The process of bringing all of this to fruition has been widely documented. At times, bloggers and industry analysts would warn that Boeing was surely approaching a point of self-destruction. Delay after delay meant the company was spending more and more money with no revenue to offset the expenses. The 787, it would seem, might never even fly.
Stephen Joiner points out in his July 2012 Air and Space Smithsonian article, “The Quiet Revolution – How Boeing Builds the Dreamliner” (http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/The-Quiet-Revolution.html), that Boeing has been here before. Risks, failures and missteps are nothing new to this company. They are the price for stepping out of the proverbial box. This is how you create the future.
Consider the Boeing 747 program. Joiner points out that Boeing grounded the first 20 production units due to problems with the engines. They even had to recall the first delivery from Pan Am—the 747 launch customer. These must have been heart-wrenching decisions, but the ability to take this kind of failure and turn it into the incredible success that the 747 product family enjoys is the secret sauce that makes Boeing one of the greatest companies in the world.
When you look at how utterly different the 787 is from the rest of Boeing’s fleet, when you consider the vast differences in materials and production processes, in skills required and the organizational learning curve, only then can you appreciate the magnitude of what Boeing has accomplished.
Now, Boeing not only has a record-selling airplane, they have the knowledge and skills, the know-how if you will, to propel them forward for the next 50 years.
Boeing shows why embracing change—not running from it—is key to transforming complex enterprises today. Tweet this!
There is good and bad complexity in every organization. Learn how to use good complexity to your advantage, and completely eradicate the bad complexity with “The Complex Enterprise” white paper.