Innovation Without Adoption = Negative Value


This has now become a passionate mantra for us at TMG and many of our clients are probably getting a bit weary.  However, a recent sad disaster illustrates the point dramatically (our prayers and condolences to all affected).  A Lion Air flight crashed in Indonesia killing all 189 aboard and it was a Boeing 737 MAX – the latest version.

The MAX included a new innovation (MCAS) which essentially pushed the nose down automatically if it sensed that the nose was too far up.  In essence, the nose was not up on this flight yet the plane falsely sensed it was and kept pushing the nose down till tragedy struck.  While the investigations will determine blame and there will be enough to go around, there are some important lessons to be learned.  Clients and alumni will quickly recognize the messages.

According to the WSJ, Boeing violated their own fundamental design Principle that always prioritized pilot authority over automation.  Principles are only effective if they are followed and violation of Principles must have consequences to drive the right decisions and behaviors.  Which is  why an effective Governance structure to develop and enforce the Principles is also essential.

Additionally, a common goal is to keep training to a minimum when introducing new models!!!  This is driven by reducing cost and showing a competitive advantage.  There was a sharp focus on avoiding simulator training.  Boeing was to ensure that pilots had all the information they needed as determined by Boeing.  The only reference to the innovation was in the glossary defining the acronym (MCAS).  Boeing assumed that pilots would never see the system in action because it would never be  activated.  The FAA is now reviewing their decision process where they accepted Boeing’s risk analyses and are now developing a test of MCAS (it was never required).  All of this according to the WSJ.  Before we go any further, let me ask you how comfortable  you would feel if I was describing a brand new medical procedure or device and I replace the pilots with your doctor/surgeon???  According to NPR, pilots at American, Southwest (some of the biggest MAX customers) were never told about MCAS – “We had no idea, none whatsoever – it shakes the trust you have in the manufacturer”.  They go on to say that this is all driven by pushing for a lower cost to their customers.

Value can only be defined by the stakeholder:  The information needed by the pilots can only be determined by the pilots.  In this case it’s the manufacturer and the regulator deciding what information should be provided.  “Airline pilots need to know everything they can know about how the airplane works” according to the ex CEO of Continental.

Cost is only one Value Driver:  Clearly, cost cannot be allowed to override other Value Drivers (Safety, Adoption, etc.).  And sometimes, the customer (internal or external) may also need to be educated on  finding the right balance before making their decision.  While trying to reduce the cost of training, the level of Adoption dropped thus reducing the overall value of the innovation.

Identifying the right stakeholders and their Value Drivers:  How and why the pilots were not identified as critical stakeholders and the Adoption strategy anchored in their needs is mind boggling.  In fact, if the pilots had been included, it would have helped Boeing with their customer’s strategic sourcing function (probably actively engaged in the purchase decision).  It would be impossible for the sourcing function to ignore one of their critical internal stakeholders (Pilots), especially if it was tied to Risk and Safety – two critical value Drivers.

The cost of this disaster is humongous.  The biggest component is the number of people who died and their loved ones.  Then you start thinking about the economic cost to the airline and Boeing and the significant reputational impact.  So please, make sure you focus on Adoption and not just the Innovation.  Budget at least 50% of your overall solution budget to Adoption and training. 


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