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Boeing Ex-Executive Alan Mulally Discusses a "Working Together Management System"

by Josh Howell
January 15, 2020

Boeing Ex-Executive Alan Mulally Discusses a "Working Together Management System"

by Josh Howell
January 15, 2020 | Comments (5)

I came across this insightful article recently by the author of American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company just as Boeing’s new CEO was taking control. Author Bryce Hoffman suggested that CEO David Calhoun call Alan Mulally, the former president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, who pulled the company out of a major crisis after the 911 terrorist attacks and then went on to save Ford, for advice.

In both turnarounds, the key was Mulally’s “Working Together Management System,” which he described in detail and in person during this WLEI podcast interview with Jim Morgan, who worked with Mulally as a Ford executive and former COO of electric vehicle startup Rivian and leader of LEI’s Lean Product and Process Development initiative.

In this rare and revealing interview, Mulally explains:

  • the role of a CEO during a turnaround,
  • how to take a “people-first” approach to leadership,
  • how to encourage people to share real information – good or bad,
  • what he thinks about lean management principles and many other practical insights.

Listen now to People First Leadership: A Conversation by Jim Morgan with Alan Mulally

Keywords:  coaching,  leadership,  learning,  Transformation,  work
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Henry Parente January 16, 2020

Mr. Mulally was the CEO at Ford, not Boeing.  He had various positions at Boeing, but not CEO.

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Chet Marchwinski January 17, 2020

Thanks, Henry. I made the correction to his title at Boeing.

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Ken Hunt January 17, 2020

Actually Alan was CEO of BCA,but not the Boeing Company. 

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Owen Berkeley-Hill January 20, 2020

I had retired from Ford well before Mr Mulally joined the company, but I had heard very good things about his "One Ford" approach to leadership, something completely alien to the leadership culture there. 

What concerns me is how quickly Boeing reverted to type soon after Alan Mulally left. Ford is struggling at the moment and I wonder whether the same recidivism has occurred there. 

After countless books, magazines, articles and consultants, not forgetting decades of Lean trying to show the way to a better, more productive form of leadership why are the old, Neanderthal ways so persuasive?

Hi Bob (Emiliani), this was a cue. ??

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Andrew L BIshop January 26, 2020
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We’ve all thought a lot about this (not just Bob!) having seen it again and again.  The lean turnaround is followed by leadership/ownership change and before you know it we’re back to management by fiat, management by objectives, batch and queue production, etc.   Why?

The short answer is “human nature”.  My teachers have shown me that selfishness (or self-centeredness) is the fundamental human flaw. 

But there is a selflessness at the center of great leadership that is learned, cultivated, developed, and (unfortunately) rare.   Our lean teachers show us one way to develop this in the generosity of spirit embodied in their questions: “What have you learned?” e.g., and more generally in the spirit of humble inquiry (see Schein & Shook’s recent work), observation and inclusion.   There are other schools of leadership thought, still dominant I’m afraid, that are more interested in “What did you get?”, “What can you do for me?”, etc. 

When we fail to develop and elevate the next leader in a succession scheme, instead bringing in a more typical “Show me your results” kind of leader, it is inevitable that our organizations lose their way.  Corporate governance clearly plays a role – if all they are about is “show me the money” and they don’t understand the long view of mutual prosperity, we’re likely to just see more of the same.

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