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Client: Boeing

Location: Long Beach, CA

Challenge: Although Boeing's contract with the U.S. government called for the manufacture of 120 Globemasters, research suggested that Boeing would not, without significant price and quality improvements, win a future bid. It needed to reduce the cost per aircraft by $50 million to avoid extinction of an 8,000-job operation.

Strategic Imperative:
Reduce cost of the C-17 (Globemaster) aircraft by $50 million per unit.

Quality and production problems had led to several rounds of layoffs and conflicts with the union.

Breakthrough Goal:
Boeing realized it needed to reduce change-cycle time by 50 percent. Change-cycle time is the total time it takes to go from identifying an aircraft change (such as a design configuration), to applying it to the aircraft, and to getting full government approval. Prior to LightSpeed Learning's involvement, the change-cycle time was approximately 1,000 days - that meant it took almost to three years to complete changes necessary to improve quality, reduce cost, and bolster safety. Each day Boeing could save in this process meant an extra day operating with higher quality, lower costs, and safer conditions.

Previously, when high cost and low customer support threatened the program with termination, LightSpeed had helped Boeing implement a team-based organization to harness the creative power of its workforce. This foundation provided a critical capability when Boeing needed to find dramatic ways to extend the life of the program past 120 aircraft.

The Change Process:
Over the next six months, Boeing identified its Strategic Imperative and its Breakthrough Goal. Using Breakthrough Work Redesign™, Boeing launched an accelerated cross-functional effort to address the Change Process. It involved all key players in identifying creative solutions to reduce cycle time, testing them, and successfully implementing them. At the same, Boeing implemented other strategic changes, including executive teambuilding, leadership skill training, functional reorganization, and the development of further work teams outside of manufacturing.


  • The C-17 program won the 1998 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which is given to the manufacturing company that demonstrates the most outstanding product quality and customer service. In a statement explaining the selection, the Malcolm Baldrige organization cited, "employee empowerment and involvement, realized through teams," as a determining reason for the selection.
  • Change Process cycle time was reduced from 1000 days to 50.
  • Costs cut in half and production doubled.
  • The C-17 aircraft operated on near-perfect dispatch during the Kosovo efforts. Its per-load delivery ratio far outranked all other aircraft, fulfilling 60 percent of cargo despite being equipped with just 27 percent of airlift capacity.


    "LightSpeed Learning's work was significant in helping [Boeing] win the National Quality Award. Part of the criteria for the award is that the company work in a team-based environment. LightSpeed came in here and helped develop that.

    "Like any change process in any organization, there was a lot of disbelief and apprehension early on. LightSpeed immediately helped improve the process. Before we even left our initial four-day workshop -- this was at the very beginning -- we had identified some early success projects. We kept building and building on that success.

    "Through teams, we've been able to push decision-making and responsibility down to the lowest, most practical level. Our teams now use their own metrics to measure quality of work and output. It has allowed our managers to move out of a [traditional] manager's role, and into a leadership role: to provide coaching, support, to become barrier busters, all the things LightSpeed taught us to do. Our teams have what they need to get work done.

    "LightSpeed taught us the importance of relationships and the appreciation for the individual's ability to learn and do their job properly. LightSpeed doesn't focus on numbers, but rather helps develop organizational design and relationships. Greatly improved numbers naturally follow."

    Bob Summers, Internal Consultant (Employee Involvement), Boeing, Long Beach, CA






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