by Laurette Koellner, Vice President, Corporate Controller, The Boeing Company Annual
Awards BanquetLong Beach Chapter, Amelia Earhart Society November 3, 2000
Amelia Earhart had a brilliant career. She was the first
to cross the Atlantic twice in an airplane and the second person ever to fly solo
across the Atlantic. Like Amelia, each of us is responsible for managing his
or her own career. We all have teammates, and we may have mentors. But, at the
end of the day, planning and managing a career is the ultimate solo flight for
each of us.
Tonight I would like to provide a few thoughts on how to make
the most of that flight exceeding your own as well as other peoples expectations.
I will cite a few lessons from the first people to cross the Atlantic by air.
I will also draw upon some of Boeings history.
In his book, The Spirit
of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh recalls addressing a group of naval officers
on the subject of long-distance aerial navigation. This happens only a few weeks
before he takes off on his flight from New York to Paris.
What kind of
charts do you intend to use? one officer asks him.
The same as you carry
on ships at sea, Lindbergh replies.
Suppose you strike a wind change in
the night, and it drifts you far off course? another asks.
error wouldnt be too serious, Lindbergh answers. This flight isnt like shooting
for an island. I cant very well miss the entire European coast.
got a good laugh with that line. But there is an important point here for all
of us. In planning a career in a fast-changing and highly unpredictable business
environment, such as we have today, you dont want to aim for too small a target.
It is a great mistake to target a specific job, because organizational or technological
change may cause the job you want to disappear. On the other hand, it is critically
important that you have some kind of a flight plan that sets some broad parameters
and gives some definite direction to your career.
We all know that people
with a real mission and purpose in life do a lot better than those without the
same engine and compass. As a teenage girl years before she became interested
in flight Earhart formulated what amounted to a personal mission statement.
She wrote, and I quote, that she wanted a life of the mind, combined with a life
of purpose and action.
As a company, we, Boeing, have a mission statement
of our own. It reads: Working together as one company for aerospace leadership.
Thats a little more specific (we are, after all, an 84-year-old company), but
it is still extremely broad. You may want to devise a mission statement of your
You can begin by asking whether Boeing is the right company for you.
As the company mission statement suggests, we insist on teamwork working together.
Moreover, this is one company not a collection of different and essentially
autonomous companies. Finally, Boeing is about leadership leadership in the
field of aerospace. Are you comfortable and in sync with those three elements?
you are, which, of several different work environments within this company, is
best suited for you? I, for one, have always liked to work in a headquarters,
or an enterprise-wide, type of environment. I like the daily change and variety
that comes with interacting with a lot of different businesses and products.
Others, I know, prefer the focus and action of working within one program over
a period of time. Thats great. But dont confine yourself in your long-term
thinking to just one program. If you are a program-oriented person, within this
one great company, there are scores of wonderful and exciting programs. But you
must be willing to expand your contacts and seek new opportunities.
Amelia Earhart were alive today and working for Boeing, she would probably be
one of our growing number of female test pilots. I expect that she would take
advantage of the opportunity to flight-test just about every kind of airplane
we make military and commercial, fixed-wing and rotary.
me to my next point. Over the course of a career, I believe that people should
pay less attention to moving up and more attention to moving out seeking new opportunities for personal
growth that may not involve a bigger title or more pay. Certainly, the most important
moves that I have made in my own career have been lateral, not vertical. I have
moved around from accounting and finance to overhead management, contracts and
pricing, labor relations and negotiations, computer operations, safety and environmental
services, procurement, and several other activities besides.
We learn the
most when we are on the move facing whole new challenges and demands. Whats
more, this gives us a whole new perspective on things we think we have already
mastered. If you are a financial person who moves into production, you will gain
a new perspective not just on production, but finance as well. Conversely, if
you go from production to finance, it will give you a whole new slant on production
as well as finance.
Lateral moves are much easier to make than vertical
moves. They depend more upon your own initiative than they do upon accidents of
timing or the judgment and discretion of others. Thats one of the great things
about lateral moves: You deploy yourself. There is no faster or surer way of
expanding your thinking and building your intellectual capital than voluntary
self-deployment through multiple lateral moves.
Bill Boeing made a lateral
move when he went from building boats to building boat planes. In entering the
aircraft business, he didnt make any more money or achieve any greater recognition
at least not initially. Boeing had a passion for designing and building things
out of wood. Those were his parameters, if you will. Just as he already proven
to his own satisfaction that he could build a better boat, so he set out to build
a better plane. In doing so, he both had his cake and ate it, too drawing upon
his intellectual capital, and, at the same time, expanding it.
If you set
the right parameters, and you are willing to continually deploy and re-deploy
yourself, I think you will have no trouble living up to the spirit of my third
and last piece of advice regarding the planning and management of a satisfying
Dont wait to be asked; take empowerment to the max.
colleague of mine in Seattle gave the best description of empowerment that I have
ever heard. This person and she is not, by the way, a member of senior management
told me that her job was so challenging and exciting, that she couldnt understand
how anyone could have trusted her to do it in the first place. Those are the
words of an empowered person, someone who is exceeding expectations all over the
place even including her own.
I wish everyone in The Boeing Company felt
as she did. We have all heard Phil and Harry and others talk about empowerment.
But it is up to each of us to self-empower and self-deploy.
No one asked
Amelia or Lindbergh to do a solo flight across the Atlantic. No one asked Bill
Boeing to build an airplane. They did these things because they wanted to. They
did them because they wanted to open new frontiers. Similarly, we, as individuals,
must decide how we are going to expand frontiers for ourselves . . . and for others
who are working with us or for us. To do that we must be prepared to do battle
from time to time with the internal bureaucracy in our organizations. But even
more than that, we have to be prepared to fight against our own inertia or what
one poet described as mind-forged manacles.
At the outset, I asked you
to ask yourself whether you were working for the right company. I didnt do that
to shock anyone. If you intend to build a good career inside this one company,
there must be a basic harmony between you as an individual and the company as
With that in mind, I do want to say a few things about where we
are going as a company. If there is one way that the Boeing of today differs
from the Boeing of two or three years ago, it is in having a more intense and
clearer focus on business. To be the real leader in aerospace today is not just
a matter of how far, how high or how fast. It is a matter of how well can we
run our businesses for the mutual advantage of our customers and shareholders.
are three things that we the Boeing team must do in order to succeed today,
tomorrow and far into the future.
What does it take to run
core businesses exceptionally well? One thing is a strong business mentality,
which is what you have when every manager and leader is well versed in the basic
mechanics of business. By that I mean
having a thorough appreciation of how cash flows in and out of a business, both
short-term and over extended periods of time. A knowledge of accounting and finance
is as fundamental to running a business as keeping the engine oiled, knowing how
to change the fan belt and watching the fuel gauge are to running a car. You
dont have to be an MBA to understand basic financial concepts anymore than you
have to be an engineer to understand how an engine works. Make sure that his
knowledge is part of your intellectual capital indeed, part of the way you think
if you aspire to be a leader within this company.
It is amazing what you
can accomplish when people act as a team and have a thorough understanding of
the exact requirements for success technically, logistically and financially.
as a company, have far exceeded Wall Streets expectations over the last several
quarters. That is due in large part to getting the commercial aircraft side of
the house back into good working shape. Did you know that the average number
of hours required to assemble a 737 has fallen from 30,000 down to just 10,000?
Part of the turnaround in commercial has come through a much better business focus.
Thats something that those of you who work in the C-17 program understand very
well indeed. Several years ago, everyone who was a part of that program came
face-to-face with the realization that a financially healthy program was the only
kind of a program that could possibly survive in an era of huge defense cutbacks.
have healthy core businesses inside Boeing today. Through a variety of new services
to our military and commercial customers, we are leveraging our intellectual capital
and finding new ways to grow the top and bottom lines. Whatever some of the skeptics
may think, we are pushing new frontiers. We havent stopped with putting a man
on the moon. Just look at Space Station. Look at the National Missile Defense.
Look at Conexion by Boeing. Look at the new space- imaging capabilities we have
acquired with Hughes.
As I see it, we are fortunate to be a part of what
Harry Stonecipher has called An Aerospace Dream Team. There is no other aerospace
company in the world that comes close to matching the breadth and depth of capabilities
. . . and aspirations . . . that we have inside this one company.
is no limit to the opportunities for people to move around and find new avenues
for personal and professional growth within this company. The Leadership Center
in St. Louis is our crossroads. I urge all of you who can to use it to broaden
your horizons and maximize your potential. Boeing also provides some of the most
liberal benefits of any company in the world for all those who wish to build their
intellectual capital by pursuing further studies and education.
I am going
to close these remarks with three uplifting words. They should be familiar to
all of you from our new advertising campaign.
In remembering the always questing
and fearless Amelia Earhart, and in reflecting on your future within The Boeing
Company, I wish you all
Forever New Frontiers.