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Boeing CEO McNerney on the Agility Imperative

November 7, 2006 by
Filed under Agility in The News

Image50In a variety of ways, more and more executives are talking about what we call “the agility imperative.” For example, in the Oct. 16 issue of Fortune Magazine Boeing CEO James McNerney says, “Institutionally, the ability to be agile enough is the gut issue in leading an organization today.”

McNerney, 57, has had an outstanding career as an executive: After working at McKinsey and Proctor and Gamble, he spent 19 years at GE, where he ran their Asian operations and their light bulb and jet engine businesses, and then 5 years as CEO of 3M, whose stock went up 34% on his watch. He became Boeing’s CEO in mid-2005, and that company’s stock is already up 30%.

What does McNerney do to make his companies more agile? For one thing, he focuses on people’s growth, his own growth included. When he talks about what means by “growth,” he pinpoints some of the key capabilities we’ve found to correlate with leadership agility: Greater openness to change, greater courage to change, and an increased capacity for teamwork. McNerney believes that, when a corporation’s people grow in these ways, in many respects the growth of the company takes care of itself. He says, “I view myself as a value-added facilitator here more than as someone who’s crashing through the waves on the bridge of a frigate.” In the book, we call this “post-heroic leadership.”

The McNerney interview is part of a series of articles in that issue around the theme, “The Secrets of Greatness.” Many thanks to Wally Higgins for bringing McNerney’s agility quote to my attention.

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