More problems for the "B Team" from ST. Louis

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Wanttaja

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Once again I am left wondering why it is the companies insist on promoting someone who is brilliant at Apples into a position with oranges.
Well, private companies aren't like the military. If you've got an oak leaf or an eagle on your shoulder, the military believes that you should be able to manage whatever they assign you.

Civilian industry is different. If an apple-brilliant individual ends up wrangling oranges, a major factor is that he or she *believed* they could manage oranges. They probably got the job on a competitive basis, beating out a half-dozen or so other applicants. Certainly, the upper management is trying to pick the most-suitable person. They sure as anything *could* be fooled by an applicant, but unless the person is planning to fail, they must, at some point, believe they could actually do the job.

In reality, many of the plum leadership jobs in the military are doled out on a competitive basis as well.

I'm wracking my brains, trying to remember the content of the employee Performance Evaluation form generated biannually at Boeing (similar to the OER in the Air Force). IIRC, there were 12 categories...but only a few of them related to how well we actually *did* our jobs. The rest was how well we supported Boeing policy #1, Boeing policy #2, etc.

For example, toward the end of my time, they added an evaluation related to safety. To meet the standard, each employee had to formally report three safety hazards per year. Probably easier for people in the manufacturing environment, but we were office workers.

In my case, I've not only got an imagination, but a gruesome one at that. I could walk through a room and see any number of potential death traps. "Carpet's rippled...trip hazard." "Wires are exposed where those cubicle walls meet." "Whiteboard is missing a screw for holding to the wall." "Emergency flashlight batteries are dead." "Boxes blocking emergency exit." and so on. Favorite was a biological hazard; pigeon guts littered the ground by the back door (had hawks nesting nearby).

Not only did I get "Well exceeds expectations" in that evaluation criteria, I emailed the list to my co-workers so they could use them, too....

Ron Wanttaja
 

Daleandee

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But, there's always a need to hire and reward people who are competent and (especially) honest.
So much for honesty! ;)

I was working for a corporation and they needed a manager in my district. A lot of folks applied but I didn't as I was happy where I was and didn't want the headache of being a babysitter. The regional manger set up an interview for me and I was told to be there.

When I got there he asked me why I hadn't applied for the DM position. I told him the reasons I named above and told him I had no training in what he needed. He told me that I already had what he needed and he could train me for the rest. When I pressed him he said to me, "You have honesty & integrity. I can't train that into a manager. Either you have it or you don't. If I ask you a question you will always tell me the truth even though I might not like the answer."

He knew me well and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. I took the position and he was one of the best guys I've ever worked for. Years later when he left I followed as I knew I could never work with the guy that replaced him.
 

AeroER

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Allergy to truth and honesty is another slice of the pie.
That might improve if the new safety committees do their jobs and don't
Yep. Leaders are rare among the managers at Boeing. Most seem to be able to muddle along, especially with the support of their senior engineers. But yet, I sense that the "fun" seems to go away, when an engineer becomes a manager. I've had two of my managers actually give up their management positions and revert back to being engineers. Don't think it had anything to do with managing me. I don't think. :)

Main issue, I believe, was all the HR BS that goes with manager's rank at Boeing. Not being able to fully express themselves (have to support corporate policy, no matter how stupid it is), have to fight twice a year when it came down to ranking the engineers for promotion or potential layoff.

Overtime might well be part of it, too. Engineers at Boeing get paid for overtime, and the contract restricts how much they can be required to work. IIRC, first-level managers have limits on what overtime they can be paid for, and certainly no power to be able to turn it down.

Ex-military officers tended to be autocratic, and didn't get a lot of support from the people that worked for them. There were some exceptions, though, I remember one retired light colonel who really did well.

The worst were those who hired on as engineers solely to switch to management as soon as they could. Technically inept, and too busy trying to get promoted.

And...for full disclosure, I have to reveal that, at one point in my checkered past, I *was* a manager. Left Boeing after the engineer's strike, went to work for a startup company handling planning and documentation for a new consumer product. The lead engineer for the program was absolutely brilliant but had zero people skills. Because he was so fundamental to the company futures, he was a high-level manager. Because he couldn't handle people, they gave me a management title under him and I handled the "people" stuff as well as my main tasks. Had some impressive title..."New Technology Manager," or something like that.



I'm not a big fan of absolutes, and there's a lot more involved here than meets the eye. For the last ~25 years of my Boeing career, I was the leader of Integrated Product Teams. Basically, the manager handled the "managing" and the IPT leader handled the technical stuff. I always worked with my managers to keep them fully up to speed (especially since they often had to give status updates to their bosses) and, of course, discussed potential issues and solutions. I told them they had the same rights as British royalty: The right to be informed, the right to advise, and the right to be seen. :)

Worked pretty good....produced ~10 spacecraft on time and on budget.

In the course of my work, I came across a neat description of IPT leaders. I'll end with it...

IPT Leaders​

“If you get in my way, I’ll kill you!”
  • Ideal IPT Leader
“If you get in my way, you’ll kill me!”
  • Somewhat less than ideal IPT Leader
“If I get in my way, I’ll kill you!”
  • Somewhat misguided IPT Leader
“If I get in your way, I’ll kill you!”
  • Tough IPT Leader
“If get kill in will way I you….”
  • Dyslexic, functionally illiterate IPT Leader
“Get away, I’ll kill us all!”
  • Suicidal IPT Leader
“If you kill me, I’ll get in your way.”
  • Thoughtful yet ineffective IPT Leader
“If I kill you, I’ll get in your way.”
  • IPT Leader who has problems dealing with the obvious
“If’a you get inna my way, I’m a gonna break you arm!
  • IPT Leader from Chicago
“I am quite confident that there is nothing in the way, so no one will get killed.”
  • IPT Leader who is about to get in big trouble
“If you kill me, so what? If you get in my way, who cares?”
  • Weak, uninspired IPT Leader
“If you kill me, you’ll get your way.”
  • Pragmatic IPT Leader
“I am the way! Kill me if you can!”
  • Messianic IPT Leader

Ron Wanttaja
The structure is a little different in St. Louis. There are no IPT's now in reality. I worked on F-18EF SLAP for two years before I found the M&P group, and I never was certain where the loads group was located, certainly not in the same building.

True IPT's are impossible when the utility engineering groups are dispersed and supporting many programs.

The F-22 and AV-8B support comes out of the same group in theory. (They are under Global Support now, a separate division). Reality is an engineer supports one aircraft type.

If 747-8 or 777X were employing IPT structure, it was not apparent.

SPEAA is not present in St. Louis, so engineer operating rules are also different. Overtime pay ranges from nothing to a $6.50 per hour differential. (Unchanged since the 90's). The most recent insults required 10 hours unpaid overtime before the differential kicked in (insulting us with the excuse that it was industry practice, industry, i.e, NG), followed by as much as could be extracted. "Goodwill overtime" essentially donated by employees goes away when they aren't paid for the "mandatory" overtime.

In St. Louis a strength engineer should expect demands for heavy overtime for about 3/4th's of a career, with 8 to 16 hours expected on the low end, and many periods with a year to three years of 72 hour weeks.

I worked with several folks that left after the strike ended as soon as they received the consolation pay. One came to St. Louis to work for GKN.
 

Pilot-34

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Do you mean promoted to their level of incompetence?
That’s not exactly the way I meant it the Peter principle is the kid that can change oil but it’s not competent to rebuild a motor I’m thinking more of the fully capable mechanic that does not make a suitable plumber
They are pretty close I not sure if they’re both Peter principle or not
 

Kyle Boatright

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In St. Louis a strength engineer should expect demands for heavy overtime for about 3/4th's of a career, with 8 to 16 hours expected on the low end, and many periods with a year to three years of 72 hour weeks.
I always found it odd that my friends at Lockheed and GD kept up with their time to the .1 hour and were routinely paid for OT when most of the non-aviation engineers I know *never* get paid for OT. The engineers I know outside aviation "voluntarily" work OT to build their reputations and resume's in order to advance their careers. It is a different perspective.
 
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Rhino

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Do you mean promoted to their level of incompetence?
That’s not exactly the way I meant it the Peter principle is the kid that can change oil but it’s not competent to rebuild a motor I’m thinking more of the fully capable mechanic that does not make a suitable plumber
They are pretty close I not sure if they’re both Peter principle or not
The former is. The latter, not so much.
 

AeroER

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I always found it odd that my friends at Lockheed and GD kept up with their time to the .1 hour and were routinely paid for OT when most of the non-aviation engineers I know *never* get paid for OT. The engineers I know outside aviation "voluntarily" work OT to build their reputations and resume's in order to advance their careers. It is a different perspective.
The 0.1 hour charging is required for government contracts, for all of the time charged, not just overtime.
 

Rhino

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Must be something new. I haven't worked since 2014, but we never logged .1 hours on our contracts (all government). Then again, we worked loads of overtime that never got logged.
 

Wanttaja

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I always found it odd that my friends at Lockheed and GD kept up with their time to the .1 hour and were routinely paid for OT when most of the non-aviation engineers I know *never* get paid for OT. The engineers I know outside aviation "voluntarily" work OT to build their reputations and resume's in order to advance their careers. It is a different perspective.
As AeroER pointed out, it's a government requirement to log the hours to the tenth whether OT is there or not. The recorded time is used to explain any overruns...."We bid this based on 100,000 engineering hours, but as the records show, it actuallytook 120,000, so we need another $2M."

Then there are the program managers who declare that "Everyone must come in to work this Saturday." Doesn't matter if *your* particular bailiwick is on schedule, and there's no way you can step in and help the (for instance) structures group. Everyone has to come in. And it's all billed to the government, of course.

This generally didn't happen with my main organization, but I did end up working a couple of projects where they pulled that. In my case, I'd show up at 9 AM Saturday, fiddle with a bit of stuff, and walk out at 11 AM. I lived only 20 minutes from work.

Engineering OT under the SPEEA contract in Seattle is the normal hourly rate plus $6.50. Also cannot be forced to work more than three weekends in a row.

Ron Wanttaja
 

Pops

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As a gov contractor for several years , all time logged was to .1 hours. In my case, it was both hobbs meter engine time and clock time.

Have a old friend, neighbor and flying buddy for many years that was a senior engineer at St Louis . Over the shipping of assemblies over the world. He received a thank you signed letter from the President at the time for heading the group that lowered and re-hung the Spirit of St Louis when it was restored at the Smithsonian. Last name is Hawkins.
He retired about 18- 20 years ago. Him and I was a house guest of the head engineer at St Louis for a few days. Don't really remember the year or his name. I do remember that I met his parents and they were from Mexico City and his wife was from Ark.
 
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geraldmorrissey

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At the end of my career I took a job with Dassault leading a team of young people developing curriculum for CATIA training. This was inside Boeing Everett. All my employees were early 20's high IQ engineering grads from good schools destined for great things. My approach was to clearly define the direction and the requirements then get the hell out of the way. I never called any meetings, made sure there were no travel/expense/money issues and generally kept a low profile. Fell off a ladder, broke my arm and worked from home for a month, turned out to be our biggest billable month. Boeing loved us and Dassault promoted me. The experience left me with a new management philosophy, don't show up.
Gerry
 

Pilot-34

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As a long time truck driver and farmer it’s rather amazing to me to be able to sit in on what is more or less high-level aerospace engineers lunch hour ***** fest.
The most amazing part to me is after spending 40 years calculating what appears to be quite tediously to the Nats ass you all still want to design airplanes.
 

gtae07

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I always found it odd that my friends at Lockheed and GD kept up with their time to the .1 hour and were routinely paid for OT when most of the non-aviation engineers I know *never* get paid for OT. The engineers I know outside aviation "voluntarily" work OT to build their reputations and resume's in order to advance their careers. It is a different perspective.
We used to get straight-time OT compensation, but that went away a couple years ago because other groups were milking it. We're still mostly treated and expected to track time like we're hourly--and our OT gets billed to our customers at 1.5X the already ridiculous rate for engineering hours--but it's all now "free" since we're salary :rolleyes: Of course, the end result is that everyone's willingness to do OT is almost gone and nobody logs it anyway. At least my department is flexible--my lead even told me he'd rather I leave early or come in late on another day, than work for free.

Effectively, we are houly, with the only distinction being that we don't punch a timestamped clock and we don't get paid OT.

Ironically, the contractor/job-shopper engineers are hourly and get paid time and a half.

In St. Louis a strength engineer should expect demands for heavy overtime for about 3/4th's of a career, with 8 to 16 hours expected on the low end, and many periods with a year to three years of 72 hour weeks.
**** that. What's the point?

The Peter Principle, a process with a long and storied history.
It's my understanding based on reading some old histories and talking to people, that management was considered The Way To Advance, and anyone in a management position was considered inherently superior to those under them--socially, financially, and in inherent worth as a person. Apparently it also used to be about the only way to advance beyond a junior/mid-level poition. I remember one "advice for young engineers" document that basically said "if you aren't in management by five years into your career, you're a failure", and it particularly confused my grandfathers that I had zero interest in going into management.

Fortunately, many companies at least partially realized that they were losing good, talented, qualified people who should have stayed in their technical/"individual contributor" role, as they were very good at it but lacked the skills/personality for management positions; they would either take the management role and founder, or leave since there was no other way to advance. These companies created positions and career paths for people to advance while staying in their technical/specialist role. We've had that for a while where I am and didn't realize it was not really the norm in most industries.
 

BJC

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We used to get straight-time OT compensation,
I’ve had to tell engineers that they were required to take time off. They were too weary to be effective.
management was considered The Way To Advance,
Yup, and that is a trap.
it also used to be about the only way to advance beyond a junior/mid-level poition.
many companies at least partially realized that they were losing good, talented, qualified people who should have stayed in their technical/"individual contributor" role,
The company that I retired from recognized the need for a technical career path, and we created one. The top engineering position was called Staff Engineer. There were about as many staff engineers as there were engineering managers. That, plus mandatory use of the assessment center for selection of managers and above effectively put an end to the destructive practice of making lousy managers out of good engineers / technical people.


BJC
 

Wanttaja

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The company that I retired from recognized the need for a technical career path, and we created one. The top engineering position was called Staff Engineer. There were about as many staff engineers as there were engineering managers. That, plus mandatory use of the assessment center for selection of managers and above effectively put an end to the destructive practice of making lousy managers out of good engineers / technical people.
Actually. Boeing instituted a similar program about 25 years ago: The Technical Fellowship. Tech Fellows are in the management/executive track for benefits, but continue to work as engineers. The first year this was instituted, I helped two of my friends on their successful application. One's application was helped by the photo of him receiving an award from Chuck Yeager. Mind you, he was twelve years old at the time.....

Ron Wanttaja
 

David L. Downey

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I think someone's ability to manage others is over-rated. A good manager, to me, is one that can shield me from ridiculous requests/requirements from other managers so I could do my job.

Management is too often dominated by selfish motivations to meet metrics versus what is in the long-term best interest of the company.

The customer wants X, sales wants to provide it, engineering thinks it's a bad idea, engineering is ignored or engineering management is too afraid to protest. Disaster slowly unfolds. I'm guessing this basically what happened at Boeing. Seen it countless times.
I saw that happen scores of times. Honesty is always the best long term solution...many in management only want sucess until they pull the ripcord on their golden parachute - to hell with the rest!
 

David L. Downey

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Actually. Boeing instituted a similar program about 25 years ago: The Technical Fellowship. Tech Fellows are in the management/executive track for benefits, but continue to work as engineers. The first year this was instituted, I helped two of my friends on their successful application. One's application was helped by the photo of him receiving an award from Chuck Yeager. Mind you, he was twelve years old at the time.....

Ron Wanttaja
ya know Ron, I am glad that the Tech Fellow program worked other places within the company. I resisted with all my might getting into that program for 2 reasons: I knew too many of the tech fellows that were complete idiots and destroyed everything the were giving expertise to (did not want to be down assessed by association of the title), and, fundamentally the process required you to show that your initials were the same as JC so that the combined board of complete technical incompetents could review your application and decide your future.
If this sounds bitter - it is not. I just set standards I would not allow to be whored out. Dunning Krueger at it best!
 

Wanttaja

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ya know Ron, I am glad that the Tech Fellow program worked other places within the company. I resisted with all my might getting into that program for 2 reasons: I knew too many of the tech fellows that were complete idiots and destroyed everything the were giving expertise to (did not want to be down assessed by association of the title), and, fundamentally the process required you to show that your initials were the same as JC so that the combined board of complete technical incompetents could review your application and decide your future.
If this sounds bitter - it is not. I just set standards I would not allow to be whored out. Dunning Krueger at it best!
The Tech Fellows I worked with were all good folks.

Obviously, the program had high standards, because they wouldn't let ME in. :)

My problem was the previous 20 years were on Black programs. Security didn't even want me saying I worked on spacecraft. Kinda cramps one's style, when trying to document the good deeds one has done.

Ron Wanttaja
 

geraldmorrissey

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As a contract engineer , I worked in a lot of places, Boeing was the best. Lousy food though.
Gerry
 
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