Project Management

Use Boeing as a Metaphor for Service Excellence

Is your service performance level where you would like it to be? Many would answer that even if they are quite pleased with their service, there is always room for improvement. Article author Glenn O’Donnell suggests looking to Boeing as a metaphor for desired service excellence. O’Donnell recognizes that the company has been highly criticized in the media of late for the state of its 787 Dreamliner, but he also suggests that their previous successes and failures can teach the business world a great deal about service excellence:

The not-so-secret secret to the astonishing reliability of passenger aircraft is systems engineering. In systems engineering, the behavior and reliability of the entire system is optimized. Every complex system is constructed of many subsystems that are constructed from other subsystems, and so on. Trustworthy systems are optimized at every level, but the engineers need to properly define what “optimized” means in the context appropriate to each point within the larger system. In IT, we are focused heavily on services. This is a commendable trend that is revolutionizing a lot of what we do in IT. Services are indeed complex systems that require the same solid systems engineering principles and processes that Boeing follows. You want to optimize service behavior and service quality as defined in the eyes of the consumers of those services.

We can learn from Boeing’s challenges as well as from their successes. With the latest 787 project, certain parts of the project were outsourced for completion. In some cases, those who the work was outsourced to outsourced even more groups. Boeing was twice removed from the core of the project, which has led to many of their current issues. In terms of IT project management, the project manager being twice removed from the project would create a host of issues.


Furthermore, when something goes wrong in a project and the project manager is twice removed, it makes it more difficult to justify missteps. In other words, if Boeing had had closer contact with each and every part of the project, issues may have been caught earlier. In terms of business project management, if a project does not turn out as desired and the project manager can do nothing but shrug his or her shoulders, no one wins.


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