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What Should Boeing Do to Fix Its Longstanding Problems?

As far as signs of trouble in a company go, a hole blowing through the wall of one of its airplanes at 16,000 feet is not subtle.

So it was not a surprise that the Boeing chief executive, Dave Calhoun, spent most of the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Wednesday focused on safety. “We caused the problem, and we understand that,” he said of the Jan. 5 incident.

Mr. Calhoun said the company had instituted additional quality controls and paused production for a day to focus on safety and quality. But Boeing’s issues span decades, and some aviation and management experts have long suggested they go deeper than processes, pointing instead to a shift in the company’s culture that put finances ahead of engineering. Fixing that may require more drastic measures.

“What Calhoun and his team need to do requires both a leap of faith from the way they’ve been doing business and some kind of viable, credible courage,” said Nancy Koehn, a historian at Harvard Business School who focuses on crisis leadership.


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