Boeing set up a fourteen person board committee in April to examine its design process on the MAX as well as structural elements of the company.
The committee’s report is being reviewed by the Board this week and the expectation is that there might be some changes to the engineering department as a result of the committee’s recommendations (ref WSJ). If so, this will be first of the internal changes that might come from the recent difficulties with the Boeing 737 MAX. It’s expected that there will be a reorganization of the engineering department that would involve changing the organizational chart for top engineers assigned to various airplane-development programs. In recent years, many large corporations have had their specialists, such as engineers, reporting to program managers for various program efforts underway in the company. In this new arrangement (which is actually reverting back to an older arrangement), top engineers would report to the chief engineer of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, with the aim of de-emphasizing program level schedules and budgets affecting engineers’ decisions on the right engineering design and the time needed for those to be right. In an atmosphere of intense competitive pressure, Boeing started developing the MAX in 2011 and spent six years on the process. But there is some speculation that assumptions were made about pilot expertise, training and talent that were not as relevant to newly-trained pilots as they should have been. Certainly, most pilots currently flying today could respond to an emergency in 4 seconds, which appears to be the requirement to divert the MAX difficulties experienced. But, if more recently-trained pilots have only been trained on simulators, that training might be lacking in emergency preparedness – or, at least, the ability for quick response might have been overlooked during their training. Thus, it’s certainly possible that if engineers were talking to each other, rather than to program heads, the need for a requirement of better preparation of the newly-trained might have surfaced.
ALL THE MOVING PARTS – It’s absolutely vital to ensure that all the parts of an organization are arranged in ways that support that organization’s long-term success, rather than short-term goals.