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You Can't Order Change: Lessons from Jim McNerney's Turnaround at Boeing Hardcover – December 26, 2008

3.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cohan, a management consultant and venture capitalist, examines Jim McNerney's unique approach to leadership. One of three finalists in the running to replace General Electric's Jack Welch, McNerney took the helm at Boeing after a stint at 3M. Pressure to boost revenues and cut costs led him to develop a leadership style designed to win the hearts and minds of employees. His mantra—you can't order change—implies that change must come from employees if it is to succeed. Cohan provides a road map to McNerney's success that identifies 11 specific leadership challenges and the management imperatives to overcome them. The prescriptions are universally applicable and include Help Your People Get 15 Percent Better, Build Strategy on Customer Focus, Invest in Your Strengths and Cut Your Company's Environmental Footprint, among others. Easy to navigate and concise, this book will help executives tackle persistent and difficult leadership problems while motivating employees and producing results. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Peter S. Cohan is a management consultant and venture capitalist. He earned an MBA from Wharton and teaches strategy at Babson College. He also edits The Cohan Letter, a successful investment newsletter.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover (December 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591842395
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591842392
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,036,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Loyd Eskildson HALL OF FAME on January 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Prior to McNerney's 7/1/05 takeover, Boeing was ethically challenged and facing an obvious need for greater fuel efficiency of its products. When McNerney took over, Boeing stock was at $64.68; it now is at $40.86. The company is two years behind on promised deliveries for its new 787, as well as other new plane programs. A recent two-month strike, and major supplier problems (a record 70% of the 787 was outsourced) largely account for problems. Employee unions are also upset over Boeing's use of contract employees.

Cohan derives his material from second-hand sources that know or have studied McNerney. That is probably a major the reason the book lacks any great insights.

A major future problem for Boeing is that other nations, especially Japan, have long pursued aviation knowledge to permit their future competition with Boeing. Some believe that the 787's outsourcing (achieve lower costs, foreign airline participation, and faster development) will finally allow this. Cohan does not address this issue.

Cohan's emphasizing McNerney's focus on cost reduction, reducing time-to-market, improved ethics, increased fuel economy is not helpful to anyone knowledgeable about the industry and Boeing's recent problems. Neither is Cohan's 40,000 ft. overview of how Boeing is improving. Readers looking for such details would do much better reading material about the Toyota Production System (which Boeing is trying to follow) - especially works by the original TPS developers. Even following Boeing through several years of Business Week, Fortune, etc. articles is better than "You Can't Order Change."

Bottom Line: My beef is not with Mr. McNerney - I'm sure he is a fine manager, though he doesn't walk on water as Cohan sometimes alludes. The problem is that Cohan just didn't put much effort (or value) into this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Very disappointing read. The author failed right off the bat to endear readers to McNerney. It is hard to root for someone with a Yale and a Harvard pedigree, born to a health care executive. What made McNerney persevere? Did doors open easily for him? We don't know because the author does not cite anywhere that he directly interviewed McNerney. Most of the advice is general and can be applied to any situation. For example "McNerney carefully assesses his own company's strengths and weaknesses". Ok. This is Business 101. And if you haven't taken Business 101, it's common sense. This book fails to provide any practical advice and ironically is very loosely linked to any theories or concepts of change, which is why I checked this book out. If you must, read it at the beach then toss.
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Format: Hardcover
To earn its place as only the second ever book I could not stand finishing this book is very special - for the wrong reasons. It is written in a style that just rubs off badly in non-american culture and has no useful insights or information. My view is its a cursory pat on the back for a big ego (I suspect McNerney is not personally the way the book comes out) which is clearly not what it set out to be. My second look actually reading the first chapters was it had no useable detail or learnings of any kind. It duly earnt a place in the bin at Bangkok airport after making me suffer nine hours without anything of entertainment or worth. Give it a miss.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is as fictional as McNerney himself. After he was booted at 3M for gutting the company of all creative and experienced assets, we all watched with amusement as he took on Boeing. To headlines of acclaim, he proceeded to confront the unions and get rid of anyone who knew anything and generally anger the whole workforce. His 'consensus' style consists of replacing all management with people who are as self serving and narcissistic as himself and ignoring the opinion of the mass of technical and experienced people who actually get their hands dirty and know something. His implementation of the 'six-sigma' religion was a nightmare of wasted resources and time. What he never got and the under 35 year old management he insisted on replacing experienced people with has serious trouble comprehending, is that engineers and scientists are taught statistics and scientific method in school and they know something. That's why you hire them and that's why you listen to them. But they just don't say things McNerney management wants to hear. 3M is still trying to recover and deal with the anti-technical management culture put in place. Thank goodness the 3M culture was hard to root out and the board listened to the stockholders. Good luck, Boeing.
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By Piansea on December 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
He really has nothing to teach people that hasn't been done a thousand times before. His big contribution to Boeing was to outsource the 787 Dreamliner. That took the design out of Boeing control and put it in the hands of suppliers who were not prepared to deal with the task. It added a layer of complexity and took control away from Boeing. Under his leadership, Boeing has suffered, and will continue to suffer.

In short, there's nothing to learn here. Read about the Toyota production method if you are looking for inspiration. This is a cheap copy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would have given it 5 stars except it said collectible. There is a magic marker line on the bottom of the book. I don't know the reason for that but I wasn't expecting it. Overall, it was a good purchase and timely.
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