The Reorg Transfers

During my time in Boeing, I transferred from one program or organization to another on six occasions.  The first time was when the Peacekeeper Program was winding down and it was time to find a new place to hang my hat.  The next two changes were me accepting offers that came my way.  Those were from the BSD computing to P-3, and from P-3 to AR&T.  Then I got pushed out of AR&T and decided to work my network of friends and spend some time in BCA.  My last two changes just happened because of high level decisions to do a reorganization, and senior management decided that they wanted me in another spot.  

My first reorg transfer was the result of the 777 Program being fully integrated into the Everett site, so the program's internal computing team was consolidated with the site computing team.   This process should have happened rather quickly, but the director whose retirement was supposed to be the triggering event decided to stay another year.  I arrived in Everett right in the middle of that, so while on paper I was in the Everett Site computing organization, I was really in the yet to be consolidated 777 Program half of it.  I would be there about a year and a half before they finished the consolidation.  When it was done, a decision was made that I really should be reporting to the BCS central computing architecture organization in Renton.

For a couple of reasons, I was not too excited about that.  The BCA central architecture group had a fairly bad reputation for being backward and less than visionary.  In the meeting where I was told I was being transferred, I was also told that there was an expectation that I would continue to represent Everett's needs  and that the architecture organization knew this.  That's all I needed to hear, so I asked if I could keep a desk with them in Everett and split my time between the two sites when I wasn't travelling to other BCA locations.  This was agreed, and from then until I would retire fourteen years later, Tim Ellis made sure I always had a cube next to his.

This turned out to be a very interesting bit of dumb luck on my part.  Because word got around through all of IT that I had done this.  So I started getting regular requests from various IT groups to given the factory tours, at both the Everett and Renton sites.  Essentially, I became the person teaching Boeing IT about embedded computing and factory control systems.  This included the interfaces to the planes and how avionics software was managed and distributed.  That in turn got me into the spares organization, and our global customer support services. 

There was another part of these changes that proved to be very fortunate.  Everyone in computing wanted to better understand what was going on with BCA's growing focus on "lean."  So I did a lot of reading on Boeing's manufacturing history, and the academic literature of business process improvement.  I ended up teaching a whole bunch of seminars and being a guest speaker in other people's classes on all the buzzword topics.  For about a year I was being tasked by various groups to come and give talks on innovation.

 

I pushed back on that one at first, since I have serious doubts as to whether or not that can be taught.  But, the attitude of the computing management team was that I was an ATF and recognized expert in these areas with a pretty good list of accomplishments, so it was obviously my job to teach others how to do the same sorts of things.  I did my best, but I wonder if it had any impact.  Of this I am certain.  I cannot point to a single innovative thing that I saw someone do after sitting through one of my classes and say with confidence that it wouldn't have happened had they not taken my class.  Maybe some things happened a little more quickly or deliberately, but there is no way for me to be certain about even that.

Having said that, my consulting work with factory teams did continue and I was able to do a few more projects in the factory networking space, and some of the folks I helped were very generous with their expressions of gratitude.  So I was able to get my name on a few patent applications that ended up being granted.

It was during my time in BCA that the old Boeing started to disappear as the full force of the influx of managers from McDonnell Douglas who had been trained to think like the people who worked under Jack Welch at GE.  The Boeing of the totem was rapidly dying and being replaced by the Boeing of the swoosh.

One of the attributes of the GE non-leadership mentality was that managers should focus on consolidating as much power and budget authority as they could.  Centralization of functions was happening all over the place, and IT was no exception.  I had been in BCA's central architecture group for about two years when it was decided by a little Napoleon from MD named Jim Palmer, to centralize all computing architecture functions in the company under one group in his organization, which was all of IT plus a few other things which he ruled under the name of "Shared Services."  So one day our group was dissolved and we were all given new reporting assignments.  

I was sent to Bellevue again to new company-wide computing strategy, standards, and direction setting group under Vaho Rebassoo and Dave Mueller.  This would last until the management team was reorganized when Vaho retired, and Allen Ballinger took over.  I would be with that group until my retirement from Boeing in 2014.

I really enjoyed most of the time I spent in BCA.  I learned a lot about the company and its history and got to work with quite a few of the executives, however briefly.  I got to pitch to Walt Gillette a couple of times, attend a few meetings where Alan Mulally was holding court, and I even spent an evening standing with Phil Condit for about half an hour at a Boeing Managers Association meeting where Alan was the keynote speaker.  The one thing that I remember about Phil at that session was thinking how much he seemed like a Shakespearean tragic character combining some of the hubris of Othello and the foolish lack of humility of Lear.  Sadly, these impressions would turn out to be more accurate than I would have preferred.