Boeing Company
The High Cost of Ethics....

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By kingmaddmaxx
August 1, 2003

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A little over one week ago the USAF slapped Boeing with a "penalty" amounting to the loss of 6 satellite launches, to the tune of about 1 Billion dollars, and disqualification from bidding on three other launch contracts. In the light of a recent 1 Billion dollar write-down by Boeing management due to the continued "weakness" in the commercial satellite sector, and their decision to pull the Delta IV completely out of commercial availability, I have to question management's wisdom. But I also have to question their honesty, and that's the more valid question these days. This most current of Boeing debacles stems from one simple concept: ethics, or the lack thereof.

The quick and dirty of this is that in the mid 90's a Boeing manager, now fired with a nice severance package I'm sure, was looking for engineers. Wooing away the competition's highly skilled and knowledgeable employees is a common practice in the high-tech industry. They bring years of experience and knowledge of the competition with them. This particular manager sought out a Lockheed Martin engineer working on their EELV rocket program, which was in competition with Boeing's own EELV for US military rockets contracts. This manager was able to woo away the engineer and he brought his knowledge of LM's EELV program with him, and some 30,000 pages of documents of who knows how sensitive a nature regarding LM's own EELV program. And the Boeing manager knew. People who reported the material were told to keep quiet by management, who did not pursue the matter. Finally an investigation uncovered the whole ordeal, several years after Boeing won 2/3 of the launches. The hand was firmly caught in the cookie jar.

Flash forward to now. Corporate scandal after scandal has wracked the executive ranks of corporation after corporation. White Collar Criminal, or WCC, is the new title for many once mighty and powerful CEO's, CFO's, etc. Boeing is in the largest aviation slump in history and has axed 35,000 employees, with another 5,000 to go. We've got SARS, and Iraq war, sluggish economy, terrorism, 9-11, airport hassles... an almost biblical convergence of events. But through it all I never, never questioned the ethics of the people I work with. Yet now the un-ethical miscalculations of a few people could cost thousands more their jobs.

When I was being raised, I was taught the difference between right and wrong by my parents. Stealing was bad, hitting another was bad, foul language was bad. I suspect that many of the same things were taught to the CEO of Enron and WorldCom. Where did it all go wrong?

Boeing completed a 4-hour "refocus on ethics" yesterday in its military side. Somehow I don't think 4 hours will compare with 18 years of what mom and dad taught, but it's a start. Just how far this goes beyond lip service to the idea of ethics I can't tell yet. But for Boeing's sake, I hope it goes very far indeed.

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