This blog has been around for awhile, so I inevitably repeat myself from time to time, but I want to say it again. Whenever someone does the whole time travel/kill baby Hitler thing, I always say to myself, “To hell with Hitler, I’d go back and kill whoever was responsible for the first MBA program.” We beat Hitler and recovered nicely, and he never did near as much damage to the country as our current profits over people management. Here is yet another example (and this is a spectacular albeit maddening read):
Nearly two decades before Boeing’s MCAS system crashed two of the plane-maker’s brand-new 737 MAX jets, Stan Sorscher knew his company’s increasingly toxic mode of operating would create a disaster of some kind. A long and proud “safety culture” was rapidly being replaced, he argued, with “a culture of financial bullshit, a culture of groupthink.”
Sorscher, a physicist who’d worked at Boeing more than two decades and had led negotiations there for the engineers’ union, had become obsessed with management culture. He said he didn’t previously imagine Boeing’s brave new managerial caste creating a problem as dumb and glaringly obvious as MCAS (or the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, as a handful of software wizards had dubbed it). Mostly he worried about shriveling market share driving sales and head count into the ground, the things that keep post-industrial American labor leaders up at night. On some level, though, he saw it all coming; he even demonstrated how the costs of a grounded plane would dwarf the short-term savings achieved from the latest outsourcing binge in one of his reports that no one read back in 2002.*
There is so much stuff that just shocks in here, including the entire chain of events that led to Boeing basically hiding the MCAS system from pilots, but I had to read this several times:
So no more than a handful of people in the world knew MCAS even existed before it became infamous.
“Mass Murder for Profit”
Huh, and I was so sure this was going to be about the Sackler family.
After Boeing bought McDonnell Douglas, McDonnell Douglas took over Boeing. Many people who work there say that’s when things went to hell.
If it weren’t for the concept of the Modern welfare state we probably would have strung up the capitalists by the 50s. Not to say we should have, because we see how well proletariat driven revolutions work (generally not well and leads to horrifying strongmen coming to power). But my GOD the sheer amount of death and destruction dealt for a dollar is almost incalculable.
Raises hand…that was my first thought too.
Hospital administration, university administration, the insane orders from above in the last couple years to the people doing the actual work post office ….
@Aleta: These are all lacks of government oversight. Even Boeing’s monopoly status in the US as MikeJ notes is as well. But nobody can hold Boeing accountable because we can’t afford to lose Boeing. They are more important to the US govt than the US govt is to Boeing, and that’s just a recipe for disaster.
You’d think after repeating this same ‘let’s push capitalism to the point of guaranteed failure’ script that we keep running that we’d stop thinking the answer is ‘less oversight’ but no, we never seem to think that.
Anyone who was in the work force in the last 15-20 years has personally felt the effects of MBA-think, from the smallest to the largest. The Boeing malfeasance is large; the attitude that human beings are disposable cogs in the money machine isn’t as large, but it’s definitely pervasive. Starts at the hiring phase, when job candidates are routinely ghosted by interviewers who don’t extend the courtesy of a follow-up “no thanks” to candidates who didn’t land the job, and extends to “work at will” practices that allow employers to terminate employment without cause or notice.
MBA culture/omnivore capitalism will kill us all.
@BlueDWarrior: agree with this. They’ll let the world burn as long as it generates another good quarter, another dollar for the share holders. The worst part is that they’ve managed to convince enough of the population that this is a good thing, that it’s the Natural Order Of things. Of course the world IS burning but profits are up, share holders are happy, blah blah blah vomit….
(Rando capitilaztion due to iPad shenanigans.)
If I had gotten an academic job, my second book (after publishing the dissertation) was going to be about how MBAs/business schools had destroyed the world. There are times I’m still tempted to write it, but then I remember that I already have the experience of writing a manuscript that fewer than 100 people have read.
It’s utterly horrifying, as is the Sackler family’s so-far successful attempts to evade responsibility for knowingly killing countless people by dumping highly addictive drugs on unsuspecting communities, aided and abetted by Republican lawmakers. If “equal justice under the law” meant anything in this country, the people responsible for these atrocities would be pauperized and jailed.
James E Powell
That’s like seven times more people than read my law review note.
I recall hearing all theses shibboleths while working at one very successful GE component in the Jack Welch days, when his chosen ones came down to assure us that they had our best interests at heart, and we should be confident that our business was, in fact, just like every other business, and would respond to the same management techniques.
Then along comes Tom Peters to reinforce the “cult of Jack,” and I had to replace my experienced writers and editors with contractors. I showed my boss the stack of documents my team had delivered and distributed , and I was proud of their work. His response? “Now I can lay those people off, right?” I was speechless, because the next software revision was in play, and we had to start documenting that one. He didn’t know, or didn’t care. He could get his bonus for reducing head count.
Don’t blame the cops for crime or the firefighters for the blaze. This is about profit-driven crime Regulation wouldn’t be so necessary if people weren’t so damned criminal.
In the mid-90’a I received a very professionally written one of those…a couple of months after I had already started the same job!! Yes, HR was completely useless at that place.
Boeing deserves our ire. As do the Whartons (and many lesser biz schools).
But so do the airlines. Southwest, American and United all made it clear to Boeing that the re-engined 737 had to use the same pilot ‘type rating’ (an endorsement to drive a particular model or group of models). That request/demand isn’t unusual. It does make rostering and scheduling much easier.
But it was born of cheapness. SWA, AA and UA didn’t want to pay for whats called difference training. It’s time out of the cockpit learning new things and, most likely, involving simulator time, which ain’t all that cheap to come by.
So to save on pilot costs, the airlines in effect pushed Boeing to dream up MCAS rather than make the necessary aerodynamic improvements to the airframe to make the plane fly right. If it was modified and flew right, it’d be a ‘different airplane’ and the cheap-ass airlines couldn’t have that!
(Lest you think it’s only Boeing that is cutting corners, there’s news from Europe that Lufthansa has to physically block the last row of seats in re-engined Airbus A320neos because otherwise the center of gravity is too far off. I don’t know if other 320n operators have to do that, or if something about LH’s cabin fit makes it worse? Jeepers.)
MBAs: Masters of Bullsh*t Advancement.
@James E Powell: Let me introduce you to my 120-page undergrad music theory thesis. It may have been read by as many as three or four people.
Don’t hate the playa; hate the game. The problem isn’t with the manufacturers, the airlines, or the customers. The problem is with a system that drives all of them to focus on costs above all else without factoring in things like safety. All this stuff could have been avoided if the FAA were acting like a truly independent regulatory agency. We need to give all our regulatory agencies real independence from the companies they’re regulating, even if that makes them a lot more expensive to run.
But people are so damn criminal.
We now live in a totally capitalistic society, the almighty dollar is king. And chasing that almighty dollar at any and all price to humanity is the cost. It drives one of our political parties above all else. And makes for a shitty result.
I like mine.
Must Be Assholes
I was for many years a newspaper reporter/columnist. Every now and then the paper would bring in MBA consultants to help us maximize content while gobbledygooking the internal stream of gizmoid whatever. They had no background in journalism, or writing or any kind, and never made the least bit of sense. In those days (not that long ago, actually) journalists could push back, so we alternately gave them a hard time or ignored them.
The only suggestion I can remember came from a team that “shadowed” city beat reporters for a few days. They concluded that a reporter should spend no more than an hour and a half on any story: One hour to do phone interviews, and half an hour to write. Thus, in a 7 1/2 hour day, every reporter could write five stories. Five, when right now they’re averaging two, three stories a week — wasting time by leaving the building and going “out into the community,” and doing “research.” Why, the editorial staff could be reduced by 3/4!
We laughed them out of the building. Then. Now …
OMG…I nearly took one of those Boeing 787 jobs in China.
I think MBAs are a symptom of the problem, a sort of Sunday school diploma for the economics in-crowd. More to the point, Barry Ritholtz has something to say about the difference between capitalism and crony capitalism.
@Roger Moore: Agreed.
As to the short-term thinking, of course the tail risk is the part that these MBA whizzes fail to price correctly. SWA (and to a lesser extent AA and UA) have taken a hit to their sales by having the MAX parked for this long. And they have reputational risk. I’m sure the majority (maybe even a largish majority) of passengers won’t care. But a segment of the traveling public will avoid the MAX like the plague, at least for a while after re-intro.
I personally am glad that Delta doesn’t own or have orders for any MAXes (for now … they love a good bargain, so they might if pricing gets good). Makes it easy for me to avoid even the chance of a MAX ride for a time.
That’s almost as useless as HR at my company, who invited me to apply for the exact same position on my team that I already had when one of my colleagues quit.
Yeah, if it weren’t for SWA’s single-model fleet Boeing would have either designed a new short/medium-haul model from scratch or revised the 757 instead. Pilots love the 757, the 737, not so much.
@MattF: Indeed they didn’t come up with theories that dress up greed as a virtue. Friedman, Jensen and Meckling etc were not MBAs. At best MBAs are the middle castes of this caste system. The finance and econ professors are the Brahmin class, the CEOs are the Kshatriyas or the landowning caste and the rest of us that work for our living are the Dalits (serfs)
A number of years ago, I sat next to former MN governor Arne Carlson at a casual breakfast meeting for a city council member. Arne had become a ‘name’ at Ameriprise Financial.
I talked with him about how I thought that the move to Index Funds and esp retirement 401(k)s with remote, disconnected fund managers was accelerating the toxicity of quarter-by-quarter thinking. When my dad started investing in the ’50s, he’d read Value Line paper reports about individual stocks, read annual reports and vote shares once he invested, and his average hold time was measured in years.
Funds now probably have average hold times of days or even minutes. It’s incredibly disconnected from value or what we might think of as investing for the future. Even though I now have mutual funds (ironic, but I don’t have the time to do what would need to be done), I am frustrated by the gambling parlor feel of the stock market now.
Anyway, Arne seemed quite taken aback (not in a bad way, but rather ‘wow, really?’). I doubt he did anything when he went back to his big desk and corner office, tho.
@narya: @James E Powell: I’m pretty sure not everyone on my committee read my dissertation.
Which was probably a good thing.
@dmsilev: @rikyrah: “Mass Murder for Profit” will soon enough become its own post category, sadly. There will be plenty of examples coming down the road. Think of all the food not being inspected, for one.
It’s like thinking the government should run “like a business” – we’re not a business, we don’t make a profit, and our “business” is to serve the citizens, not “maximize shareholder value” or whatever other bullshit thing businesses think they should be doing these days other than serving the customer (and don’t get me started about AT&T…..) My boss of 25 years was driven to get another job because they wouldn’t upgrade him – he was supervising over 30 people but making the same money as a manager supervising less than 10, and because he didn’t have the “holy grail” engineering degree they wouldn’t upgrade his job, so now Wyandotte Unified Counties gets the benefit of his experience, and we’ve had two just-out-of-school engineering graduates in his place (kind of, they never actually filled his job). Not kidding, he only had a high school equivalency and the engineers would ask him questions about our sewer system, that’s how much valuable knowledge he had! He told me that every place he interviewed with assumed he had an engineering degree! Also, they will hire any civil engineer to fill any slot regardless of experience, so we now have a superintendent who spent 30 years in the water section of our local utility company, and didn’t know much about sewer before he was hired here. He’s getting to where he does OK now, but there was a learning curve, that’s for sure.
@Gravie: (Raises hand). Laid off from Raytheon because my pension was going to be too big. They didn’t say that, obviously, but they were laying off senior people by twos and threes per week for weeks before my turn came. What happened afterward I don’t know.
But the real danger and disasters will be in cutting back on all forms of quality assurance.
@trollhattan: Something has also, it seems to me, have gone really haywire with the ‘cleansheet’ airplane design process. I get that systems are much more complex now than when the 737-100 launched in 1967, but so should computational and engineering ability.
The CS100/300 (now, thanks in part to the brilliance of Wilbur Ross’s tariff strategy the A220) functionally bankrupted Bombardier and took forever. It’s going to be a minimum of six years before Boeing comes out with a 757/767 ‘middle market’ replacement aircraft. If the board decides it has the stomach for the risk. And if the development, assembly and testing process goes perfectly.
I worked at Cornell’s business school for a while and came to the conclusion that an MBA was a two year degree in back-stabbing and ass-kissing.
The Moar You Know
@Stan: But they are, so regulation is not only necessary but mandatory.
To argue otherwise is to argue not only against reality but human nature itself.
You ain’t never lied. The bacon and ribs that will be killing soon enough.
We laughed them out of the building. Then. Now …
Now … I lose my job when they eliminate the courts and crime reporter position along with the staff photog and the night desk copy editor. The same stupid corporate-gobbledygook-nonsense-speak is still at the heart of the excuses the hedge fund that is sucking local newspapers dry across the country uses to explain why they are dismantling an extraordinarily important local news outlet.
No more 40-inch stories on the search for a murder suspect or on how steady changes to training and equipment have made firefighters much safer on the job and at the station, no we want 500 words of saccharine bullshit to post on the shitty website nobody reads because it’s behind a paywall and that’s how the paper will be saved.
@rikyrah: Smart people will go vegan or halal. Still no guarantee.
@rikyrah: patience, grasshopper
Maybe it’s our fault? I mean even now I think paying 300 bucks between Denver and PDX is a shit ton of money. So if they are focusing on price it’s because they are trying to maintain the same prices for decades. This is also why airlines like Delta now break up economy to two versions of it where one is a super economy version which is the same cost as the old economy version and a new version that is more expensive by about a $100.
If it is the market, then really it comes down to wages doesn’t it? I could afford a 400 dollar airplane ticket if I and eveyrone else was being paid more.
This is why I fucking hate trickle down economics or Republicans attacking the middle class. There is no economies of scale anymore.. all these rich people will end up having to pay more for everything and I know they hate that. Cheap fucks. (wow, my rant escalated quickly didnt it? ;-)
The Moar You Know
The NYT, capitalism’s lapdog, ran a trial balloon article last week (pardon me for not having the link or giving them the traffic) that shows what Boeing’s strategy will be in the coming tsunami of lawsuits. tl;dr version: it’s the pilot’s fault. And their airlines for putting inexperienced pilots in the cockpit.
Well, airlines have been putting inexperienced pilots in the cockpit forever. They’re called co-pilots. That landing that was so smooth that you didn’t even notice it happening? Captain. That landing that slams you into the seat in front of you? Co-pilot. They learn.
And no amount of experience could prepare any pilot for a flight control malfunction in a system that they’ve never been told exists, much less how it works.
This seems very wrong, now. Vanguard Index 500 is the largest mutual fund, I presume, or one just like it from BlackRock. They are holding forever.
Index funds only trade based on investments coming in or going out (so far almost nothing out) or changes in the index component stocks.
Index funds now hold more money than active stock mutual funds. Trading volumes from the Index funds are very low.
probably lower, relative to inflation, than in the 1970’s.
Airplanes today are the bus system of the 1970’s – and have you seen the people who rode buses?
Our idiotic financial class:
(Morningstar link may be behind a paywall.)
ETA: Like the King of Chaos currently occupying the WH is good for business. The part I didn’t quote in the beginning of the article was about the markets being down after his UN speech.
ETA 2: Maybe our financial betters should look at the market data during Democratic Presidents vs Republican Presidents. Still, they’d rather believe their beliefs rather than their lying spreadsheets.
as usual the crime is what is legal. The use of the ‘corporate veil’ to shield the owners, and or executives, will continue. until morale improves.
or everybody is dead.
also the book on the chickenshit DOJ dealings with superrich bankers who have more, and more expensive lawyers, than the DOJ.
Jeffrey Epstein 2007 comes to mind. as do the lack of prosecutions over mortgage fraud and perjury in mortgage servicing.
Much of the outrage over the OJ murder case was that he was allowed to hire expensive, effective, lawyers. That was supposed to be reserved for white people.
It’s why I’ve decided to stop eating pork.
I don’t think index funds are the problem. Their whole shtick is to buy and hold a bunch of stocks that match the broader market; I assume they regularly vote in shareholder elections, though it’s not clear how active they are in pushing good management vs. keeping their heads down. It probably varies a lot from index fund to index fund, and comparing their stances might make an interesting way of thinking about which index funds to buy. The big problem are the actively managed funds. Those are the ones that are buying and selling like crazy as a way to justify their management fees.
Those fuckers still think Obama was the enemy and took all their money away – never mind that he did the opposite, and the market has risen for 10 years straight based on the foundation he and the Democrats created. They see anyone who looks at them cross eyed as a dangerous socialist.
scaredy cats almost as bad as farmers.
so… is this the lull before the storm or the slow motion camera pan of watching the shoes drop from the top of the closet?
I sit here being unproductive as hell today because it appears that our political pimple is finally about to be popped and I have to be reminded that we have a face full of political acne and a fully stocked pantry of pork rinds, potato chips and soda
I guess this means they’ve gotten an acceptable version all made up. I wonder how many “Sir”s they’ll put in Zelensky’s mouth.
Oh god I just broke my wrist hurts so bad fuck fuck ouch
I am going to defend business schools here- at least some of them. I am a b-school professor of management. While I don’t have an MBA, I do have a PhD in Organizational Behavior/Human Resource Management and quite a few years in both the private sector and in academia. I can tell you that the b-school I teach at has many fine faculty who are concerned about corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and green business, among other areas that would be supported by many progressives who post here.
Many of us complain about the short-term view and the cost-cutting focus of firms that seem to care only about the price of shares rather than long-term sustainability. Much of the problem arises from the demands of the investors (or owners) to maximize shareholder wealth. This single-minded attention to shareholder wealth drives executive and managerial decision-making, especially when these managers own substantial numbers of shares or stock options. Most of these large investors don’t care about long-term sustainability and as long as this philosophy dominates, there will be perverse motivation.
One last point is that we need to start indicting business leaders who are involved with this kind of crap. Too long have they benefited from the corporate shield. It is time to hold them to account.
you do realize that recent food borne illnesses have been from e. coli on lettuce, or at Chipotle – probably also on lettuce?
heading to doc in a box soon as I can dressed using one hand
West of the Rockies
Fasten your seatbelts… It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Senate inquiry into whistleblower just announced.
Ceci n est pas mon nym
In one of those old jokes comparing professions, candidates are asked “What time is it?” in a job interview. The MBA leans forward and asks confidentially, “What time would you like it to be?”
suckers. Trump also promised to release his taxes.
And as far as profit goes, you’re an idiot if you slash your revenue base, ie. taxes, to make a bunch of rich people happy.
“We should run the government like a business – profit over everything! Let’s destroy our revenue stream by heavily cutting taxes for the rich!” Morons. Way to go, you “fiscally responsible” assclowns.
Just One More Canuck
@Gravie: A friend of mine in university got four FOAD letters from the same bank for the same job he’s applied for. He taped them to his door with commentary to the effect of ‘thanks for applying, but fuck off, never bank with us, if you even walk by one of our branches, he’ll track down and hurt everyone you’ve ever spoken to’
Off topic, Robert Hunter, Jerry Garcia’s lyricist, died today.
If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
@SiubhanDuinne: I’m so sorry you are hurting. Can you safely drive?
Oh, I’m not shocked. Horrified, yes. Disgusted, yes. But modern business is all about short-term profits and ripping off partners and customers and so shoddy safety is to be expected.
I bet the Watergate Committees were formed in the fall of 1973 – maybe even summer of 1973? and that seemed like a whirlwind.
I think so. If not I’ll call uber. Near enough to walk if need be
@catclub: Yes, but if the government has decided to let the pork industry regulate itself, I think it’s a matter of time before they start cutting corners.
Officially official transcript.
Our guy: “Roar [unintelligible] mumble-mumble”
Ukraine guy: “What was that, sir?”
Our guy: “Mumble-roar [unintelligible]”
Ukraine guy: “That is a great idea, sir!”
Now, where’s the treason in that?
Ouch. Take care. Let us know how you are as soon as you can.
@Spanky: How big and burly is Zelensky? Will he be blubbering like a baby?
I assume it’s the same basic market pressures that are causing them to screw up their upgraded designs. The airlines are demanding every last drop of efficiency, which means the designers need to squeeze their designs as hard as possible to provide it, and manufacturers have to push the manufacturing technology to build the design.
It’s right up there with coal mines monitoring their own safety protocols and maintaining their own E1s.
@SiubhanDuinne: STOP COMMENTING AND GO!
And maybe straight to the ER?
@Martin: Wasn’t there a claim that Challenger disaster was the result of some cost-cutting? Administrators didn’t want to do some final ‘checks and fixes’?
@Amir Khalid: willdo
OT: Would you guys be interested if I review of Neerja. Inspired by Adam Silverman’s late night post yesterday I have been hearing Neerja’s score on a loop?
Its a great story well told with some great performances by Shabana Azmi (Neerja’a Mom), Jim Sarabh (Leader of the hijackers) and Sonam Kapoor (Neerja), and a beautiful score.
My favorite: Aisa Kyon Ma? (Mom why?)
One line in it gives me the feels,
Why doesn’t the world see me with your eyes?
Its starts with the devnagari alphabet a aa ee (first come the vowels), then the consonants (ka, kha, ga, … etc)
You do realse that this will just drive up the price of halal meat in America, don’t you? Why do you hate Muslims?//
Need sleeve to kick in can’t get dressed quickly
I think it had to do with no one remembering that synthetic rubber gaskets would harden and crack in below-freezing weather.
@Ladyraxterinok: They were going to lose their launch window if they didn’t launch that morning, which would have cost $$$ more. And it was colder than the O-rings were designed for. But they said “fuckit” and launched.
Call a friend to drive? That must hurt, goddamn.
@SiubhanDuinne: This is where an emergency mumu would come in handy.
Even more than that, I think they don’t really care about their absolute amount of money; they’re already rich enough they never have to worry about anything ever again. What they want is to be able to lord it over the peasants, so they want to crush the rest of us. The Democrats are evil because they want to improve the lot of the peasants relative to the lords.
@SiubhanDuinne: Hope the Aleve kicks in soon and you can get to the doc; posi thoughts headed your way!
@Amir Khalid: Haha
@SiubhanDuinne: Get better soon, mob enforcer needs her paws!
@MattF: My dad, b 1908, was a COA and head of the U’s accounting dept.
Now and then in the 70s and later he’d get stated on the MBA mindset he beli err veda had infected y ng e world.
He would particularly go on about how pop people now thought if a person could run one business, they could run any kind of a business. They didn’t need to know anything about the specific company what it did, what its product was.
He was all that the old-style method of starting out at the bottom and working your way up to management was the way American businesses used to be among the best in the world.
He also longed for the old days when owners and managers of companies volunteered significant amounts of time to community organizations.
He claimed you could see the change over time in our town. When he was growing up people came to town to work with the idea they’d probably raise their family there. Now they planned to move on after a few yrs. They would thus make business decisions with no concern about how it might affect the quality of life in the community—eg, where to open new branches, etc
Steve in the ATL
@SiubhanDuinne: wish I could drive you but I’m stuck in meetings all day. Make sure you get some oxy to deal with the pain–it’s risk-free!
Steve in Sandy Springs
@Leto: as I was moaning and feeling sorry for myself I thought about you and others here who have had many worse painful injuries I’ll be okay thanks for kind thoughts
This. Meat is probably less of a problem, at least as long as you cook it properly. The dangerous stuff are uncooked vegetables and milk.
@Steve in the ATL:
Not saying that’s the most depressive read of my life (way too much competition lately.) BUT DAMN!!!
We really allow executives to get away with murder. It’s time to overhaul our criminal justice system to make sure these managers go where they belong, if more go to jail (more than zero) and some to the chair, we’d actually dissuade this bull from continuing.
It wasn’t that exactly. The engineers knew there were problems with the O-rings in cold weather*, and they recommended that the launch be scrubbed. Management refused to listen and demanded that the launch go ahead because they didn’t want the launch delayed.
*And the problem wasn’t that the O-rings cracked in the cold. It was that they lost their elasticity, so they didn’t spring back and plug a gap when the booster fired. That let the hot combustion gases out.
@catclub: IIRC, when smoking began being restricted or banned in US, tobacco companies began a massive PR pro cigarette campaign in Asia and SoAmerica—not changing the cancer-causing formula.
I remember a news program discussing how smoking had exploded in those regions after the companies essentially lost their US market.
sheila in nc
I recommend the book “Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town” by Brian Alexander.
I stand corrected. It’s been many years since I read that chapter in Feynman’s biography.
@Redleg: In 90 I was with a small group of US German teachers studying aspects of German society. One of our site visits was to a German corporation with a regional headquarters in that city.
In one discussion the corporate presenter was intensely irritated. He had recently been at a conference about German and American companies working together.
He said the Germans found it nearly impossible to work with the Americans. The Germans planned long-term, usually several yrs. The Americans only wanted to see the result after 1 quarter, at most 2
Ever since the “greed is good” days under Ronny Raygun I’ve said that “fiduciary responsibility” will be the Nuremberg Defense of this era.
In 2001, Boeing moved its HQs from Seattle to Chicago so it could be nearer to financial and business leaders. That is when it stopped being an engineering oriented firm to one interested in financial manipulation.
@Redleg: Thanks for your post about business schools. Are there tweaks to corporate law that would address the imbalance of power that shareholders exert?
@Amir Khalid: We’re so happy that there are two halal markets just four blocks away. And several halal take out restaurants.
That explains a lot.
@Ladyraxterinok: An engineer friend of mine once had a week-long tour of Panasonic’s facilities in Japan. They’re planning out 5 years, even decades in some cases.
Its actually nice that you don’t need to know anything about the business, like how to make it work to a formula that makes money but doesn’t know shit about the product/service because all businesses are exactly alike. Beats the hell out of learning anyfucking thing.
As usual, I blame Neutron Jack Welch. He started doing the things described in the Boeing story to GE in 1980, Before him, the convention wisdom was that the way to grow a corporation was to invest in people (training) and in research and development. During and after him it was down-sizing, out-sourcing, stock buy-backs, and set the bar higher every quarter on . “the numbers”.
Sign-of-the-times quotes from GE colleagues, circa 1990-2003:
A.D. coming out of a meeting, “They have a new word for experience at GE now. It’s called ‘baggage’.”
J.W., returning from a Performance Review with a new manager who couldn’t carry his jock as an engineer, and finding three guys lined up in his cubicle waiting to ask for help: “Don’t bother talking to me about your problems. I’m just a ‘B PLAYER’!”
(Welch’s Rules of Management at that time dictated that every performance review sorted an office into A-Players, B-Players, C-Players, and D-Players. The A-Players got a raise, the B’s maybe a cost of living raise, the C’s were given 6 months to improve or else, and the D-Players were fired. Oh, and by law, every office had 10% D’s at every yearly review.)
Welch in an interview with Business Week (which he was so proud of he put it in the GE Annual Report:
Q> Isn’t there a limit to how many people you can layoff? Do you worry at all that the constant layoffs will hurt employee morale and loyalty?
A> You can always squeeze more blood out of the lemon. What idiot is loyal to a company?
(Not the exact words and it was two separate questions but recognizably close.)
I can testify from personal experience that it’s just as bad in the software industry as it is in the manufacturing industry. My experience at Microsoft and Amazon, among others, has shown me that clueless upper managers still don’t understand the lessons of “The Mythical Man-Month,” a book written in 1975. I could write a similar book about the problems with Windows Vista alone.
And you cannot talk to them: you cannot talk about the need for paying down technical debt, for refactoring, for not cutting corners, for allowing adequate time for testing, for not making massive changes to the project weeks before it’s scheduled to ship. They just don’t get it; it’s like you’re talking in Sanskrit. And with the current move in the entire industry to do away with dedicated testers, I see it getting worse rather than getting better.
I was demoted from a management position once (and would have been fired if I hadn’t been so valuable) for the sole crime of accurately predicting that we were heading for a train wreck because the senior leadership had set the schedule, with no input from the engineers, and had not built in any time to properly integrate together the work of the six teams that were working independently of one another.
The various pieces, like the Boeing plane, were supposed to fit together like Lego bricks, but they failed to understand that you need ample time to design, document, communicate, and test in order to make that happen. Even worse, three of the teams were contractors and active communication to and from the contracting teams was rigidly controlled and restricted, further complicating the problem.
I spent months loudly and repeatedly pointing out that we had a serious problem and begging for more communication and more time. After the inevitable happened, I was asked to step down as a manager because I had a negative attitude, so it was clearly all my fault. I stepped down and, of course, immediately started looking for another job and was gone a month later.
Thankfully, I’ll be retiring in the next year or two, since I’m awfully tired of being Don Quixote, vainly tilting at windmills. I just don’t need the stress, not anymore.
Mass murder for profit is exactly right. Boeing was doomed the second they moved the corporate headquarters from Seattle to Chicago for a incremental tax advantage. The whole process was such an insulting farce that made clear something essential about Boeing had died. If they couldn’t be trusted to avoid cutting corners in one facet of the business, it was only a matter of time until they’d cut corners with engineering as well.
@SiubhanDuinne: Ouch! indeed. So sorry this happened to you! Take care of yourself.