Boeing asks for help in changing its corporate culture

Boeing Co., struggling with delays on the 787 Dreamliner, is working to reshape the corporate culture of its civilian aircraft unit by bringing in an adviser used after mergers a decade ago.

Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group was hired to help employees feel engaged and to end a climate in which they sometimes were reluctant to speak up or ask for help, said Jim Albaugh, chief of Seattle-based Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Deliveries of the 787 may not start until next year after setbacks to a 2008 target date for the first jetliner made mostly of plastic composites. Days before announcing the fifth delay in June 2009, Boeing had pledged the plane would fly within two weeks. Boeing said then that some people in the company had known about a structural flaw for several weeks before deciding it was serious enough to scrub the flight.

“The 787 has tarnished the company’s reputation,” said Pat Shanahan, who runs Boeing Commercial production and development. “We need to establish and show people what we can do technically and be predictable about it.”

Bill Parsons, the Senn-Delaney partner in charge of the Boeing project, said redoing an organization’s culture typically takes about two years. Executives learn to foster personal accountability, openness to change, collaboration, integrity and realistic optimism, he said .

Six Senn-Delaney consultants met with Boeing’s senior leadership group in January, followed by seminars with the top 1,000 executives, Albaugh said. A second phase is under way to reach all 7,000 managers.

Workshops by team leaders for rank-and-file engineers and machinists will probably begin in early 2011 .