Boeing Inches Closer to Truth

Since the time of the second crash of one of the company’s 737 MAX jetliners, Boeing has been defiant, slow-to-react, silent, and circuitous. Each passing day has brought new information, new testaments from pilots, and new revelations about the 737 MAX. Quality control in production, training of pilots, disclosures on warning light issues, and more drips and drops. There were some close calls, i.e., “We made a mistake, but others are to blame for what happened.” And some false reassurances that Boeing was “relentlessly focused on safety to ensure tragedies like this never happen again.” However, Boeing’s CEO,Dennis Muilenburg, just spoke to reporters a few days ago at the Paris Air Show and said, “We clearly made a mistake in the implementation of the alert,” (The alert related to the angle-of-attack-sensors on the two jets that crashed). Boeing waited for a year to inform airlines and regulators about the issue after concluding, incorrectly, from an internal investigation that the issue with the sensors “did not adversely impact airplane safety or operations.” Bottom line? The warning light on the sensors did not work unless the airline purchased a separate cockpit indicator. The airlines and the FAA were not told immediately.

The FAA faulted Boeing for the year-long delay in disclosure during a May hearing. Pilots suggested months ago that they should have been told. Data showed that the pilots in the Ethiopian crash performed all the procedures Boeing recommended but could still not gain control of their aircraft. Initially, the idea that pilots on foreign airlines were not trained as much as necessary in simulators had ben floated. Painfully, the truth has emerged, and the “mistake” admission has finally followed. But, it is an admission by an organization that ceded the ethical high ground and now finds itself trying to rebuilding trust with airlines and passengers. Airlines have canceled Boeing orders, and delays in delivering 737 Max jets have shaved off $1 billion in revenue. To really rebuild trust, Boeing needs an examination of its culture — how and why the one-year delay in disclosure. What was everyone at Boeing thinking and why? Then on to explore the delay in admission following the first and second crashes. Same questions. The company will find that the answer to the questions for both delays is the same. The Barometer suspects that there are some very bright employees, engineers, and managers who can offer tremendous insight into the realities of the Boeing culture.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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