Monday, May 13, 2019

Dear Boeing: Repeat after me: 'It's our fault. We screwed up. We're sorry.'

     It's become a Facebook trope: airplane passengers posting photos of their 737 Max 8 safety cards, snatched from seat-back pockets.
     "This does not bode well," wrote Larry Lubell, a Chicago insurance executive on his way to Austin.
     A bit dramatic, given that 737 Maxes are grounded while Boeing tries to fix the software glitches that sent two of them crashing into the ground, killing 346 passengers and crew.
     But also a reminder that even after the technical challenges are overcome, there will be the public relations stain, one that will take much longer to scrub out.
     "Boeing's Tough Sell: Trust Us" headlined a story in The New York Times last Thursday, a tale that does not portray a company nimbly cleaning up its mess.
     "Boeing is facing credibility problems," the story noted. That happens when you not only screw up, but then compound your error by doing a tap dance around the problem.
     Go to the Boeing website. The second item — already a subtle wink that business goes on — promises "737 MAX UPDATES."
     Click on that. Up comes a video of Dennis Muilenburg, chairman, president and CEO of Boeing, his blue eyes harmonizing nicely with his blue shirt; tieless, to show they are in crisis mode.
     "We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 Max accidents," he begins.
     A start. Then again, I am also sorry about any lives lost. Maybe you are, too. That doesn't mean we caused them.
     "These tragedies continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and minds," Muilenburg continues, "tragedies" slyly implying we're talking about acts of God, instead of corporate corner-cutting, though hazily suggesting Boeing might have a closer association with these crashes than you or I do. "And we extend our sympathies to the loved ones of the passengers and crew onboard Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302."

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  1. That NYT article also referred to the Tylenol poisonings as the correct way to handle a disaster.
    I remember that Johnson & Johnson's boss moved to Chicago for weeks & was available to answer questions from reporters 24/7 & never once gave out a no comment answer.
    Business schools use it to teach the right way to respond, now Boeing's incompetence will be taught as the totally wrong way to respond!

  2. That CEO probably has a dozen lawyers up his ass, telling him not to say anything that could be used against the company in court.

    Not that that's any excuse. If he doesn't have the character to tell his own lawyers to go scratch, he should just keep his mouth shut.

  3. I've heard that doctors who 'fess up to making a mistake aren't sued as often as those who stone wall, but I'd hate to be the lawyer who advised his client to come clean and made a close case a slam dunk against Mr. Good Guy. Honesty is always the best policy, except when it isn't. My own mistakes aren't exactly tests of character, since I'm always caught red-handed.


  4. I worked for Boeing a few decades ago. My, how things have changed. When I worked there, Boeing was absolutely obsessive-compulsive when it came to safety. If Boeing thought that something was needed for the safe operation of the aircraft and the airline didn't want to pay for it, Boeing wouldn't have sold them the plane. I don't know what happened to the integrity that Boeing once had.

    1. They merged with McDonnell/Douglas & the McDonnell/Douglas bean counters took over the Boeing.


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