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Experience Is There For Future Reference – The Case of Joe Sutter and Boeing Company

Joseph Frederick "Joe" Sutter was the original lead engineer in the designing and building of the Boeing 747 jumbo-sized four en...

Joseph Frederick "Joe" Sutter was the original lead engineer in the designing and building of the Boeing 747 jumbo-sized four engine aeroplane.


Tapiwa Zuze

Sutter led the engineering team on this project from 1965 to 1969 when the first B747 took-off into the skies. Over the years some younger and sharper brains came along the way, and took over a number of other modernised tasks under the Boeing Company.

However, there is one thing that struck me most about Boeing Company. Though they grew bigger and better with sharper human capital along the way, but they never threw away the likes of Joe Sutter. In one way or the other he continued in the vicinity of Boeing. In fact, by the time of his passing on in 2012 (at 95 years of age), he was part of Boeing Senior Advisory Group, simply because Boeing knew that experience will always carry the day when called upon. Even when Joe Sutter lies in the grave, he is still referred to as “THE FATHER OF THE 747”. In addition to that, Boeing renamed their iconic 40-87 Building in Everett to “Joe Sutter Building”, in honour of their hero.

But when we come to our own business and politics today; we have a strong appetite to destroy and throw away all our predecessors' efforts. We come into offices and burn all policy documents, existing resolutions, and getting ready to “re-invent the will”.

Incumbent ministers are chopped off, senior public officers are tossed to and from, all in the name of “change”. In that chaotic madness of trying to prove relevance, big brains and big ideas have been lost.

Even in churches, boards are dissolved, lay workers are fired, office bearers hounded out and humiliated. There is finger pointing, and axes are sharpened and wielded, hovering precariously over congregants. Again it still comes back to the same question: Was everything wrong that was done before you came in? Was every document, policy, resolution all wrong?

This is the greatest tragedy of today; everyone trying to prove a point. By being this naive we have lost so much experience built by our predecessors over the years.

Everyone is trying to be a superstar, and this has brought a lot of artificial successes leading to monumental failures in the end. Just like Boeing and the Joe Sutter case; only if we can appreciate each other, the better for us and our future generations.

Let’s learn to value our predecessors’ efforts.

Tapiwa Zuze – www.tapiwazuze.com

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