Boeing B787 Project: A Deeper Look From a PM Lens

In addition to the Readings and Resources materials for Module 3, review the following concerning the Project Management Iron Triangle. Then read the Boeing B787 Project failure background and assignment instructions below:


With a workforce of more than 161,000 people and a net worth of $120 Billion, Boeing is one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world. However, Boeing also had one of the largest project failures of all time with the B787 Dreamliner. The B787 is often referred to as a perfect example of a project well past deadline and over budget; the project that began in 2003 went three years past deadline and billions of dollars over budget. This is often attributed to a) the use of composite materials compared to traditional metals, b) a decision to share the development of the aircraft with suppliers, and c) an extremely complex supply chain. However, this assignment asks you to dig deeper into the “why”, and to look at the problems from a project management perspective. The very things we have been learning about in the knowledge areas, the life cycle phases, and even individual processes…things PM’s do in these instances to make a project NOT fail in this way. The very things Boeing PM’s could have done to be successful, or to at least have struggled much less.

– IMPORTANT: Demonstrate YOUR critical thinking and application of PM ideas. Do research on concepts in this class, don’t simply report on the many articles available on Google for low-hanging fruit on this project…that is not the assignment and that does not demonstrate your critical thinking and understanding of the related PM issues. I want YOUR ideas based on what you have currently learned and researched. The concepts you are learning about this week regarding the Iron Triangle may give you inspiration into some ideas and may even be a portion of your paper, but ensure that you go past (or develop) such ideas in a way to demonstrate your understanding and research on such topics. Use the PMI database link in 1.5; use the Hunt Library; dig into PM concepts to apply to the below guidance. Research, critically think, and write; do not merely report. 

Note: The B787 project/program had several other unfortunate operational issues once put into service (e.g., lithium ion battery issues, etc.), but those are not the focus of the initial project management issues, or of this paperDo not write about the program woes of the B787; stick to the project and the PM concepts I mentioned above.

Assignment Instructions:

Based on what you have learned about the Iron Triangle, the Initiating Phase, and from your own research this week, develop a three to four-page document, excluding the cover sheet and reference page, which provides your analysis and conclusion of how a robust utilization of Project Management principles could have prevented a prestigious aviation company from experiencing such a large project failure. Specifically, your paper should consider and address:

  1. Boeing’s supply chain was reported as complex and difficult to manage, with outsourcing often easily being blamed. Boeing did outsource what they normally conducted in-house; however, many companies regularly outsource a vast majority of major work quite successfully. Was the supply chain and outsourcing procedures used by Boeing really the issue? What should/could have been done from a Project Management perspective, and where/how should that effort have taken place?
  2. Thorough research on your part will likely show that Boeing received advice from its technical experts before initiating the Dreamliner project – the advice was to keep with their traditional methods of design and manufacturing for the B787. Boeing executives are often easily slammed for ignoring this advice in an attempt to cut costs. However, if the project was a huge success they would have been lauded for their genius and vision. First, find a resource on this topic and include it in your paper. Then, from a Project Management standpoint, how could Boeing have prevented (or perhaps mitigated) the negative effects of reduced project/process control often associated with outsourcing, and perhaps even benefited from this new method of design and manufacturing as intended? In other words, don’t just quote the nay-sayer article and state they should have listened…address it from a PM standpoint on what could/should of been done that wasn’t. 
  3. A factor of your choosing, found in your independent research on this project, that directly relates to a project management concept that you think is applicable to this project failure. This concept can come from either the Initiating, Planning, Executing, or Monitoring & Controlling Life Cycle Phases that we have been learning about. Demonstrate the problem, how it directly relates to the selected project management Life Cycle Phase, and your ideas/analysis on what should/could have been done.

Remember: Don’t simply report on the facts of this B787 project failure – those issues are well known and documented. Critically address the problem from a project management perspective, using what you have learned so far and what you have found in your PM research (not just B787 research). Any questions on this guidance, ask! 

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