U5: Fight or Flight

I am sure most of us have heard about the Boeing airplanes that have crashed within the last few months. According to Ellis, this is supposed to be due to the new system that Boeing introduced with the new planes engines called MCAS which stands for Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. Boeing was trying to compete with their rivals Airbus who introduced a new plane engine, so Boeing rushed production to keep up. However, Boeing introduced a new software that was supposed to counteract the planes from stalling, should the plane fly at too steep of an angle upward (Ellis, 2019). This would cause pilots to fight with the system when trying to gain altitude.

Pilots did not receive much training on the new planes. Boeing only saw the change to their engines as a minor upgrade. As Skeet notes in Here’s what we can learn from Boeing’s unhealthy corporate culture, safety should be one of the most important things that we take into account when we fly (2019). The ethical climate of the business seems to have let the company move forward with doing the minimum required to get the new engines out. This cost people their lives and now this is causing the company to lose customers and profit. When the company was first developing the new engines and the software, the company was pressed for time to beat Airbus. This is when Boeing faced their first conflict. A conflict is defined as “critical event or point of decision which, if not handled in an appropriate and timely manner (or if not handled at all), may turn into a disaster or catastrophe (Crisis, n.d.).” Should Boeing try to put in as much research and effort to make sure their new changes were safe, or should they rush out a product and work everything out as it goes? Seems like they chose the latter.

After the first crash Boeing faced their second conflict. Should they research the cause and attempt to fix all of their planes and provide more education to their pilots? This was not the case until their planes have been grounded. Boeing was only fixated on getting their product to maximize profit. After their critical events and their decisions, they are facing the public now. Some are speculating whether or not they knew issues like this would occur. According to Penn State, their action after the critical event shows the values of those making the decision (2019). Clearly this was not seen as an issue until after the second crash. Planes are seen as the safest way of traveling.

According to Skeet, “In Boeing’s case, the company should return to its foundational documents and update them along with their software (2019).” Boeing and other companies should look to protect their customers instead of chasing a profit. The short-term goal may be working, however long-term goals are more important than the short-term. Leaders need to understand that they need to address issues before they occur. Leaders know that their decisions will affect a lot more people down the road. No matter how small your company is or what your product or service is. Leaders owe it to their customers to put in the proper research to ensure customers and employees are protected. Boeing has shown us that profit is more important than the lives of their customers. This should be an example for other companies. Short term profits will affect profits and customers in the long run. Sure, you may have made a little today, but like Boeing, your reputation can be damaged for quite a long time. Showing that you truly do not care about your customers is never a good thing. The ethical climate of the company needs to change. Other companies skipping on certain aspects of a project to maximize results will have this come to light sooner or later. This will reveal who is more important. The customer or their wallet.



Ellis, R. (2019, April 04). Experts say there were similarities in the Ethiopian Airlines and the Lion Air crashes. What were they? Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/18/world/boeing-737-crashes-similarities/index.html

Skeet, A. (2019, April 17). Here’s what we can learn from Boeing’s unhealthy corporate culture. Retrieved from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-what-we-can-learn-from-boeings-unhealthy-corporate-culture-2019-04-17

Penn State University (2019). Lesson 10: Crises. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919/pages/l10-crisis-defined?module_item_id=25808513

Crisis. (n.d.). In Business Dictionary Retrieved from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/crisis.html

One Comment

  1. Dana April 21, 2019 at 8:41 AM #

    U05: Response to Fight or Flight


    This is a great example of an ethical dilemma where it appears on the surface that a company values profit over human life. Unfortunately, it is seen all too often when companies rush to get a product to market so your assessment that it could be a timing issue, an attempt to beat Airbus, is plausible. What I struggle to understand is how the new software and engine component passed the stringent aerospace standards that are currently in place to prevent this very issue from happening.

    The ethical standards involved are called AS9100 and apply to the aviation, space, and defense industries. There is also a secondary set of standards called ISO9001 that involves the quality management systems. Like the APA standards, a significant breech had to occur at some point, or multiple points, of the manufacturing and testing process in order for this to occur. Maybe an engineer unknowingly created inefficient software, a quality inspector was pressed for time and unethically qualified a component that did not pass the required safety checks, or a leader decided to ship product without reviewing quality reports. The answer will likely be found by the investigators who are reviewing the paperwork for traceability but unfortunately it is too late for those whose lives were lost.

    I agree when you said “Leaders owe it to their customers to put in the proper research to ensure customers and employees are protected” (Levine, 2019) and I believe these ethical missteps happen far more often than we realize with large manufacturers and consumers are the unsuspecting end-users which gives new meaning to ‘Buyer Beware’. Standards are established to guide human behavior and promote strong ethical climates that ensure benevolence, principle, cosmopolitan loci of analysis, and/or collective moral character, exist at a minimum but as the last lesson pointed out “the ethical climate is actually created by everyone in the organization, not just the leadership, so if the climate is unethical, even an ethical leader may be unable to raise it to a moral high ground and significantly improve ethical organizational performance” (PSU, 2019).

    I think we will find that in this particular case, it was not a single person or leader, but the ethical climate that failed not only the public, but the organizational climate at Boeing as well.

    Levine, Juwan (2019, April 18). U05 Blog. Retrieved from http://sites.psu.edu/psy533wheeler/2019/04/18/u5-fight-or-flight/

    PSU. (2019). L13 Ethical Climate. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1963919/pages/l13-overview?module_item_id=25808544

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