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What is the cost to your customer/client when you or your employee(s) do incomplete work?

Recently, during the process of applying for a home loan, my husband and I had an experience where incomplete work was done by the lender. We had made an accepted offer on a home with a closing date of Monday, March 18th. On Wednesday, March 13th, we were informed that some of the paperwork needed by the loan underwriter was missing due to the recent merger of the loan company. Our closing date was now in jeopardy, as we were two business days from closing only to find out that the loan may not be approved. We asked our lender if he was aware of the impact of our loan possibly not being approved. His response was, “You will get your deposit back.” At that time, we let him know that the impact of the incomplete work from the mortgage company was beyond the deposit as we had already sold our home and were in limbo. The cost of trying to begin again and find the same type of home was in the tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention the emotional impact of losing the place that had been created, as well as the impact to the seller. His response was, “There is nothing I say that will make a difference.” We had to start our search over.

While I am present to the impact of how this affected us personally, as a transformational business consultant, I begin to look at the cost and impact to businesses that do incomplete work. An example that came to mind was recent news of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 (a Boeing 737 Max 9 airplane) where the door plugs blew out in flight. What was the cost of this incident, both literally and to the Boeing brand?

My research showed:

  1. For Alaska Airlines, grounding the Boeing 737 Max 9 across their fleet cost $150 million (which Alaska Airlines is requesting Boeing for compensation).
  2. For United Airlines, in the first quarter, it expects to lose between 35 cents to 85 cents per share.
  3. Since January, Boeing’s stock has lost about $45 billion in market value.
  4. At least a dozen Alaska Airlines passengers have filed a class action suit against Boeing and Alaska Airlines totaling $1 billion.
  5. A survey performed by Morning Consult found that the net trust for Boeing dipped by 14 percentage points for those responding, with the biggest change being among business travelers of 26 percentage points.
  6. In an article by Bill Hutchison, John Nance, an ABC News aviation analyst, stated, “If this had been at 39,000 or 40,000 feet, a lot more stuff would have gone out and anybody who wasn’t tied in might have gone out as well.”
  7. The Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into Boeing and the FBI has notified passengers of Alaska Airlines that they have been identified as a possible victim of crime.

image of an airplane in the sky

The initial investigation into this incident indicates that the first technician didn’t correctly enter the work that was done into the appropriate system. The next technician didn’t know that the work required a quality inspection. So, no inspection was completed. Also, the investigation discovered that the culture at Boeing doesn’t call for the quality and excellence of work but rather calls for a business model and the “numbers”. The FAA investigation report cited “a disconnect” between the rhetoric of Boeing’s senior management about prioritizing safety and how front-line employees perceive the reality. In other words, the culture at Boeing does not allow for complete work, quality, and excellence. Without altering the culture at Boeing, technicians doing the work will continue to do incomplete work.

What is required at Boeing is to shift the culture:

  • Establishing values: What will you stand for as a company no matter what?
  • Creating alignment throughout the company at all levels.
  • Everyone doing their jobs as they were meant to be done.
  • Creating stakeholders in the company at all levels.
  • Allowing for communications which addresses what is not working.

While the cost of incomplete work in your company may not be at the level of Boeing, at minimum there is a cost in the trust in your brand. If you are interested in providing a culture and alignment in your company where:

  • complete work is natural.
  • where doing the work as it is meant to be done is natural.
  • where everyone being stakeholder is natural.
  • and where everyone is free to communicate what is not working is natural.

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