Fast Company

Boeing's Rules Take Flight

Boeing operates in a specialized industry, but the rules that make its business fly apply to every company under the sun. Incorporate these nine guidelines from one of the airplane giant's top managers, and watch your business take off.

Lars Andersen
Project Manager, 777 Longer-Range Derivatives
Boeing Co.
Seattle, Washington

When we were working on the first 777s, about 10 years ago, we created "rules to live by" that helped keep the team on track. We started with the Boeing motto, "Working Together," and drilled down to specifics for our team.

Today, there are about 2,000 people working on new 777 models. We still use these rules. Some of them are very simple; some are more complicated. The important thing is that they don't apply to airplane development alone -- we use them throughout Boeing.

A Compelling Challenge

Teams must pursue attainable goals -- end results that are neither vague nor so far beyond reach that they appear unattainable. At the same time, a team has to feel as though it's being called upon to do something that takes a stretch. People won't engage or feel motivated to excel if they don't consider a project compelling.

Clear Performance Goals

Everyone on the team -- engineers, designers, suppliers, administrative assistants -- must understand what's expected of them. We specify who will do what at all levels within the team structure before we start a project. This prevents people from getting tangled up.

One Plan

Everyone must own a copy of the plan -- the timing, the expectations, the responsibilities. Each team member must be able to march through the organization and beyond -- to suppliers and to vendors, for example -- and explain who does what, when, and why.

Everyone Included

We make sure everyone on the team -- from the senior-most designer to the junior administrative assistant -- knows how he or she fits into the plan, and why each person's contribution is important.

No Secrets

Good news, bad news, whatever -- people need to know they can and should come forward if they need help.

The Data Sets Us Free

If there's a conflict between team members, we don't debate the issue endlessly or let the situation get personal. Instead, we sit down together with the data. If you have the right information, it will tell you what to do.

Propose a Plan and Find a Way

A certain amount of frustration is understandable. And there's nothing wrong with venting. We'll all listen. But once you've vented, it's time for all of us to find a way past whatever is bothering you.

Demonstrate Emotional Resilience

Recognize that you're under pressure, and that the people around you are under pressure as well. Try to be resilient in the face of that pressure.

Enjoy the Journey and Each Other

We think we're lucky because we're working on exciting, impressive machines. It's something we take time to enjoy.

Lars Andersen is the program manager for the 777 Longer-Range Derivatives for Boeing. He leads the team that is responsible for the 777s from design and production through flight test and certification. For more information about him and Boeing, visit www.boeing.com

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