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Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers Hardcover – October 12, 2010
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"Well-written and show[ing] a firm grasp of both the aviation business and the competitive forces pushing Boeing management to act as they did."—The Seattle Times
(The Seattle Times)
"Turbulence is not only a masterful, detailed study of ten years of dramatic organizational change at Boeing. It is also a story of how American managers and workers can cope with the fierce pressures of global economic competition, seeking both high productivity and a decent workplace."—Benjamin I. Page, Gordon Scott Fulcher Professor of Decision Making, Northwestern University (Benjamin I. Page 2010-07-06)
“Turbulence traces the history of corporate restructuring and its consequences through the experience of an iconic US company. A fascinating read."—Peter Cappelli, George W. Taylor Professor of Management; Director, Center for Human Resources at The Wharton School and Professor of Education, University of Pennsylvania(Peter Cappelli 2010-07-10)
"The mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis is admirable and well done, a credit to the authors. The power of the work comes from an unusual, perhaps unique, empirical data-base looking at what actually happens to employees living through massive corporate change."—Jim Collins, author of Built to Last, Good to Great, and How the Mighty Fall (Jim Collins 2010-07-15)
"Not the usual 'sanitized' business school case study, Turbulence makes visible the contradictory forces at play as an iconic company lurches through wrenching change. Much of the story is told through the voices of employees and front line managers, giving the reader an insider's view of what corporate transformation can mean for people. The book is excellent for teachers who want to bring the subject of organizational change vividly and powerfully to life for their students."—Linda Smircich, Professor of Organization Studies, Isenberg School of Management University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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When I first saw how hard it was to get, I wondered if John F. McDonnell or Harry Stonecipher were buying them all up! Just kidding, but it does make you wonder.
The authors' make it very clear from the start that the "Boeing" throughout the book is Boeing Commercial Airplanes. That is important to understand. I would even state that the "Boeing" in the book applies to people with a legacy born in the Heritage Boeing Commercial Airplanes (the Puget Sound region).
I have read the book. Right off the bat in the preface I saw that Stan Sorscher and Charlie Bofferding (both former Boeing employees and members of SPEEA, the union representing professional employees at Boeing) were engaged in proofreading or as sources. I thought that it might have a real-life perspective from the engineering perspective. It also explains a few of the stories that are recalled. Ron Woodward's input was a real eye opener! His discussion of Phil Condit was wild!
We all wondered about Phil, at times. Between marrying secretaries multiple times and having houses with unique features (from castle-like architecture to model trains running through them). His involvement/capitulation in settling a particularly contentious IAM strike and the naiive negotiations leading up to the McBoeing merger are mentioned in the book, but I am sure there is much, much more to the story.
One minor dissappointment is typographical, I have never heard former CEO Frank Schrontz called Carl Schrontz.
I also wish they had done their first survey in 1996, pre-merger.When I read it again, I will make sure to look at the footnotes right away.
The feedback from the open-ended questions was very much in synch with my impressions and memory.
I was impressed with how all the various groups responded. The differences in perspective between hourly, managers, engineers and women added to my understanding of how much impact the changes had.
The suprises I found - I did not feel that DCAC/MRM (a complete rework of how Boeing Commercial Airplanes managed the release of drawings and bill of materials) was ever going to work, but it did.
I also did not think I would have had as much sympathy for the impact of change on managers. The open-ended discussion of their perspective was very frank and at times startling.
I thought the coverage on the early retirement offer in 1995, was too brief, but it caught several elements of what came of it. Missing - the fact that many folks took the offer without preparing for it. I think hourly folks probably ended up spending themselves into a hole. Many returned to the workforce, humbling.
My personal experience of the early retirements in 1995, I lost a mentor. He was a 6' 7" Dutchmen born in Indonesia and raised in Mexico. Another engineer from Mexico called him the "Short Mexican." He was so easy to learn from and he worked to the last minute on his last day. He packed up his briefcase, we said our goodbyes and he walked down the hall of the "plywood palace" in Everett. The minute he turned the corner ...I burst into tears. I did very well on my own afterward, but the shock was a sobering realization that he was gone. He worked for Douglas (including the time before McDonnell took them over)before coming to Boeing.
I think the coverage of the SPEEA strike was brief, but there are other books covering that topic.
I was also surprised to see no discussion of the Mullally Migration, the Centralization of a lot of the Engineering functions to Renton after the 777 work wrapped up. Then to see much more people migrate to Everett in an even larger movement of people 10 or so years later.
I agree with the authors' impression that the WARN act has probably done more damage than good in Boeing's hand. Bang vs whimper. The suffering while on "career death row" was not necessary. Since I graduated with my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1981, I have been laid off three times - all before the WARN act. None of these layoffs were fun, but I always ended up in a better situation. The shortest notice was 4 hours, then 5 days, and finally as a job shopper on the B-2 in 1988, 2 weeks. I wasn't married and didn't have children at the time. I will add that the longest duration between jobs was 3 months.
My impression is that some of the statistics were a little weak to draw too much of a conclusion, but I think the authors were upfront about it.
I wish the period captured at least one year before the pre-McDonnell Douglas merger era and more of the turbulence experienced on the 787 with the schedule slides and other discoveries that have made it to the media. It may have been too sensitive a topic for Boeing to give access to academic researchers, though.
The basis of the book is a study carried out over a period of ten years, between 1996 and 2006. The authors "surveyed, interviewed, analyzed, and wrote about the employee experience at Boeing". The key point, which is made clear throughout the book, is that what happened at Boeing is not different than what happened in many other large corporations in America. You don't necessarily have to be a Boeing employee to recognize your own experience here. The organizational changes that have transformed Boeing are part of a large trend which redefines the way large companies are dealing with their employees in order to remain competitive in the context of globalization. The impact this transformation had on employees is analyzed in details, and subjectives interpretations are given to make sense of the enormous amount of data accumulated in the four surveys that were carried out over the ten year study.
You don't have to be a Boeing employee, or ex-employee, to appreciate this book. What is discussed here is now a universal theme. It's about the new paradigm that has started to replace the one that was established after the war in 1945. The relationship that the employers had with their employees had not changed much in the first 50 post-war years. But the mounting pressures of globalization forced Corporate America to take drastic measures to remain competitive, and this had a devastating impact on the morale of the workforce. Compared to other books on globalization, the main difference is the importance given here to the impact of globalization on the employees themselves rather than the corporations, in this particular case Boeing.
The last survey was carried out in 2006, but the latest developments up to 2010, the time of publication, are largely discussed. The title of the book "Turbulence" suggests that it has not been an easy ride for Boeing employees. The transformations had started a year or so before the first survey had begun and it's still an unfinished business. The tension between Boeing and its employees remain high and since increasing competition is threatening Boeing's share of the market, we can expect the conflict to linger for sometime. Eventually a new rapport will have to be developed between Boeing and its workers. They have to, for the future of Boeing depends on it.