Bloomberg investigative journalist Peter Robison’s thoroughly researched Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing (2022) offers noteworthy lessons about corporate responsibility and leadership problem-solving.
In a nutshell, starting in the late 1990s, Boeing shifted from a company run by engineers who emphasized product integrity to one run by MBA-types who prized shareholder value over long-term product planning. Inspired by General Electric’s Jack Welch, the company embraced cost-cutting, outsourcing, financial engineering, union-busting, and co-opting regulators. These miscalculated strategies culminated in the 737 MAX disasters and disgraceful corporate responses.
Recommendation: Read Peter Robison’s Flying Blind, but be wary of the author’s broad-brush political biases, which, I found, sidetracked from the storyline. The internal organizational tensions that led to corporate deception and the fateful consequences of federal regulators’ consigning design approvals to Boeing are particularly interesting.
Key Takeaway: Negligent engineering to minimize costs and adhere to a delivery schedule is a symptom of ethical blight.