The report is aimed at identifying the role of project managers in different project-based operations. In this connection, the report examined the case of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner developments while gathering insights on the risks and stakeholders along with their management approaches that were implemented by the organization. Moreover, the researchers also analyzed the success factors of the 787 project while suggesting some best practices and recommendations for future project managers on the lessons learnt from Boeing’s case.
Brief Introduction to Boeing 787 development
The organization, Boeing, took the initiative of creating additional value for its customers specifically the airliners and the passengers through the development of an innovative aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, in the year 2003 (Tang, Zimmerman and Nelson 2009). The decision was made as airfares declined in the US and the number of passengers per year increased from approximately 240 million to 640 million in between the years 1977 and 1999, following the US government’s deregulation of air travel in the year 1977 (Tang, Zimmerman and Nelson 2009). In this situation, the US commercial aircraft manufacturers faced significant challenges from the European companies. Similarly, after losing a large amount of market share to Airbus in the late 1990s Boeing was forced to come up with systematic decisions of reducing costs of operations and developing innovative aircraft to boost revenue streams (Tang, Zimmerman and Nelson 2009). The situation led to the development of the 787 Dreamliner while focusing on improving the value propositions and addressing the experience-based requirements of its customers, specifically the passengers.
The organization planned towards utilizing composite materials for 50% of the primary structure of the 787 aircraft as compared to the traditional use of aluminium (Tang, Zimmerman and Nelson 2009). The activity would be allowing the organization in improving the flying experience of the customers as the composite material allowed increased humidity and pressure to be maintained in the passenger cabins. Moreover, it was observed that the use of composite materials, being lightweight, would allow the organization in offering non-stop and long-haul flights without layovers. The aspects have been observed as a contributive factor towards improving the revenue streams of the organization while contributing towards the flying experience of the customers.
The organization, Boeing, used the unconventional supply chain to reduce the development time from six to four years and development cost from $10 to $6 billion for their project, the Dreamliner (Tang, Zimmerman and Nelson 2009). However, it has been observed that certain specific risks were faced by the organization during the developmental process. Supply chain risk is one of the crucial risks that were encountered by the organization while operating on the project.
It has been observed that the organization mostly relied on its tier-1 global strategic partners to develop and manufacture entire sections of the project based on unproven technology but any disruption in the supply chain was capable of affecting the project scope while increasing the schedule and costs of operations (Tang, Zimmerman and Nelson 2009). According to Kerzner (2018), an increase in the cost and schedule due to delayed supplies or disrupted supply networks is capable of significantly affecting the project parameters. In this connection, the organization took the initiative of taking control over the suppliers. For an instance, when the organization was aware that Vought Aircraft Industries were incapable to develop and manufacture, proving as the weakest link to Boeing’s 787 supply, Boeing acquired a section of Vought in 2008 and another in 2009 to eradicate the supply chain risks (Tang, Zimmerman and Nelson 2009).
According to the research done by Dey (2012), effective project management activities aim towards ensuring effective utilization of cost and time parameters to generate quality deliverables. In this connection, it has been observed that the supply chain-based risk was capable of disrupting the overall project status, out of starvation as supply chains being disrupted the resources would remain stagnated and the development would have remained inactive. Therefore, the strategy of taking control over the supplier activities enabled the case organization in empowering the scope of completion for the project.
A systematic approach to risk management was observed throughout the activity conducted by Boeing. Sarkar and Kovid (2015) stated that a systematic evaluation and prioritization of risks based on the project parameters are integral towards ensuring the efficient functioning of the different aspects. In this connection, Boeing’s management identified that the disruption in supplies would result to project starvation and termination which forced the same to develop alternative interventions and implement the best applicable strategy to ensure continuity of operations.
Another crucial risk that was faced by Boeing was specifically labour related. Boeing’s increased outsourcing efforts resulted in a sense of job insecurity among its workers. The concern resulted in a strike by more than 25,000 Boeing employees in the year 2008, which completely disrupted the overall flow of operations within the project teams (Tang, Zimmerman and Nelson 2009). In this connection, the organization took the initiative of keeping the employees motivated and focused through a concession of 15% wage increase over four years while limiting the number of tasks that would be outsourced by the organization to address the insecurities of the employees (Tang, Zimmerman and Nelson 2009). The strategy was fruitful towards encouraging the proactive participation of the employees and different levels of stakeholders in the different areas of project operations. In this connection, from the research made by Kerzner (2018), it has been observed that an effective project manager takes the initiative of collaborating with the team members while identifying and resolving their issues to influence engagement and coordination towards accomplishing the shared project goals.
Again, Sarkar and Kovid (2015) stated that leadership plays an important role in ensuring efficient project management while inspiring and influencing the activities of the project teams and empowering their efforts towards meeting the strategic goals. Therefore, the critical study of the risks faced by Boeing at the developmental phases of the 787 Dreamliner would contribute towards identifying the systematic approach that might be used by project managers while managing risks in a project-based operation.
The major stakeholders of Boeing are the customers along with the business partners, investors, corporate shareholders and employees. It has been observed that the corporate shareholders and investors play an integral part as a stakeholder of the organization while providing funds towards ensuring the growth and development of the organization. The corporate shareholders hold a huge stake in organizational growth and development. Some of the major shareholders of the organization are the Vanguard Group, BlackRock, and Newport Trust (Tang, Zimmerman and Nelson 2009). It has been observed that the profitability and growth of the business is a major interest for the shareholders of the organization along with its investors to ensure the sufficiency of returns on their investments.
On the other hand, it has been observed that the employees of the organization play a major role in ensuring the development and growth of the organization while contributing to the brand image. The business partners are suppliers of the organization which controls the consistency and continuity of the business operations while supporting the operational processes through supplying raw materials and semi- unfinished propositions to Boeing for supporting their innovative projects. The profitability and growth of the organization are supported through the continuity of different levels of organizational operations. In the case of the concerned project, every stakeholder group played an effective role in ensuring the efficient developmental activities of the 787 Dreamliner.
The organizational leaders took the initiative of encouraging the active participation of the stakeholders in the different areas of Adler et al. (1995) while maintaining the transparency of communication to build on the trust factors. According to Bredillet (2007), a project manager must take the initiative of encouraging the active participation of the stakeholders in the different areas of operations to ensure continuity of operations while relating to the schedules and timeframes agreed on. Likewise, Straw (2015) opined that active engagement of the business stakeholders in the different areas of operations influences the successful and uninterrupted completion of a project. In this connection, the chosen organization focused on encouraging the active participation of the stakeholders in the development of the 787 Dreamliner project through effective communication and collaboration.
Bakker et al. (2011) observed that transparent communication between the project stakeholders is necessary for building trust and collaborative practices. The organizational leaders took the initiative of maintaining the availability of information among the relevant groups of stakeholders which empowered their active participation in the different areas of operations of the project. Again, Straw (2015) noted that identification of the issues faced by the stakeholders and resolution of the challenges is an important step that must be considered by an effective project manager to influence engagement. In this connection, Boeing reflected effective problem identification and mitigation capabilities by managing the workforce. As previously mentioned, the workforce moved into a strike for job insecurity due to the increased outsourcing activities of the organization. The organization limited its outsourcing activities while providing the employees with a wage increase over four years. The strategy most likely influenced and motivated the employees while maintaining the continuity of project-based operations. Therefore, effective management of business stakeholders is a necessity to influence the active participation of the same in the different project related activities.
Boeing 787 has been an innovative project in the airline industry. However, there has been a certain issue that was faced by the organization with delay in schedule and increased costs. In this connection, the current section would be outlining some of the major challenges that were faced by the project which limited the scope of its success factors. According to the research by Pandian et al. (2020), it was observed that Boeing did not formulate or adhere to any Reliability Program Plan (RPP) while designing and developing the project which resulted in a series of challenges. Among the challenges that were enumerated in the research by Pandian et al. (2020), short development cycles and highly complex supply chains are the foremost which mostly reduced the efficiency of the organization in maintaining the effectiveness of operations. It has been observed that the organization developed an unconventional supply chain that mostly focused on reducing the schedule and costs.
However, the incompetency of the suppliers and business partners in addressing the requirements of the unconventional supply chains and delivering propositions on time resulted in delays and increased costs incurred by Boeing. On the other hand, the research by Pandian et al. (2020) also enumerated that the insufficiency of timed information sharing among the project stakeholders significantly affected the capability of the organization in influencing the project success parameters. Bakker et al. (2011) stated that timed information delivery builds on the collaborative efforts of the stakeholders while influencing their active participation in the different areas of project operations. However, it has been witnessed that insufficiency of information transmission among the various project stakeholders significantly affected the capability of the organization in reducing costs and schedule, resulting in overruns.
Recommendations to Project Managers
Communication and transmission of information among the project team members and relevant stakeholders have been identified as important aspects that must be considered by the project managers to empower encouragement and ensure collaborative-informed practices. According to Bredillet (2007), effective communication and transmission of timed information are necessary for building collaborative practices among the project stakeholders and project managers must take the initiative of maintaining clarity of communication to eradicate complexities. From the business case of Boeing, it was identified that insufficiency of timed communication between the business partners and project teams disrupted operations and resulted to cost and schedule overruns.
Straw (2015) stated in research that project managers must maintain transparent communication with the stakeholders to win over the trust of the people and empower an inclusionary approach. The best practice that must be entertained by a project manager is identified as the one in which a project manager is responsible for sharing information and data on the project parameters while providing feedback to the team members and the different stakeholder groups to ensure the quality of operations.
On the other hand, the complexity of tasks might significantly affect the team performance in projects. In this connection, project managers must take the initiative of distributing the tasks among the respective departments which would act as a measure towards maintaining the simplicity of operations. Lientz and Rea (2007) stated that effective allocation of tasks as per the expertise of the team members within a project team not only reduces work pressure and complexity but also increases the quality of operations and outcomes. From Boeing’s business case of 787 development, it has been observed that insufficiency of effective task distribution among the business partners and monitoring activities has acted as means of reducing the project efficiency.
Moran and Youngdahl (2008) stated that a project manager is responsible for influencing and rectifying the operations of the stakeholders to ensure efficient functioning. Therefore, project managers must act as agents towards ensuring team performance through providing feedback to the team members on their performance while making the same awareness of the project objectives and the activities that are expected to be undertaken to comply with the project requirements. Schwalbe (2015) opined those feedbacks from the project managers act as means towards ensuing team performance while improving the quality of deliverables.
Moreover, Aaltonen and Kujala (2016) observed that feedback delivery by project managers plays an integral role in monitoring and commenting on the project progress aspects which are integral towards ensuring that the project is closed within the scheduled time and cost limits. Project managers are responsible for monitoring and reporting the project progress to the shareholders or clients. It has been observed from the research of Adler et al. (1995) that effective monitoring over the project progress improves the scope of control interventions along with ensuring modifications in the project operations to ensure performance capabilities. It has been observed that effective monitoring and reporting of the project parameters and progress enables in improving the scope of strategic interventions while adhering to the changing project situations. Therefore, project managers are required to involve in efficient monitoring and reporting activities to ensure that the project operations are under control and the stakeholders operate as per the project requirements and objectives.
Therefore, from the above assessment of the business case of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner developments, it has been observed that information transmission in a timed manner is crucial to ensuring project success. The insufficiency of timed information transmission has considerably increased the project schedule and costs while reducing informed operations of the different stakeholders. Moreover, it has been observed that the complexity of processes tends to affect the quality of operations and outcomes of a project. It was observed that Boeing implemented an unconventional supply chain operation to reduce the schedule and costs of development. However, the complexity of the supply chain operations significantly affected the stakeholder engagement in the different areas of development and supply while disrupting the entire supply chain operations.
Effective communication and integration of the project team members are crucial to ensuring the success factors of a project. However, the insufficiency of specific communicational attributes within the business partners and the organizational teams has significantly created a gap for Boeing which drastically affected their project deliverables. The study critically examined the risk and stakeholder management approach of Boeing’s 787 Developments while discussing the success factors of the project. Moreover, the project also identified some lessons that might be learnt by the future project managers from the case to improve the scope of project success factors.
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