The U.S. House committee’s report on Boeing’s 737 MAX disaster makes interesting reading on contemporary leadership, particularly the pressures of rapid product development.
The rush to market and a culture of contributory negligence and concealment conspired to ensure that a not-yet-airworthy plane carried passengers into service, resulting in two fatal accidents and a long grounding.
Boeing’s design and development of the 737 MAX was marred by technical design failures, a lack of transparency with both regulators and customers, and efforts to downplay or disregard concerns about the operation of the aircraft.
Of particular importance are the “management failures,” “inherent conflicts of interest,” and “grossly insufficient oversight” at both Boeing and its regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.) Boeing failed to offset the design limitations and cost- and schedule-pressures in favor of attention to customer safety. Leadership was fixated on fending off the runaway success of the Airbus A320neo program.
The company relied on too many technical assumptions—and they couldn’t make themselves the space and time to be reasonable about any of this. Boeing’s “culture of concealment” and an “unwillingness to share technical details” are the report’s most damning indictment. Employees spoke but went unheard; indeed, their voices were suppressed.