Greetings. I'm normally a very patient person, but after the latest round of delays in getting my Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" I'm starting to get a bit frustrated. I realize that creating a state-of-the-art airplane is a difficult thing to do. It involves lots of innovation in terms of design, technology, collaboration and production. But let's be serious, we were promised this product originally in the beginning of 2008.
Now, roughly three and half years later, most of us are wondering when ours will arrive. And, some of us, including China Eastern Airlines have decided to cancel their orders and move on with older and less energy-efficient aircraft as Boeing tries to figure out how to ramp up its output.
Okay, so I'm not really holding my breath waiting for my plane to arrive. Sure it would be slightly cooler than continuing to drive my Volvo station wagon…even with its pedestrian-sensing capability. But the highly-publicized case of the 787 raises some very important questions for companies, government agencies and organizations of all shapes and sizes. These include whether or not we can ever afford to keep our customers waiting? Or, whether we have the right to waste their time as we get our act together? Or, whether we should ever make promises that we can't keep (when we probably know we can't keep them)? Not by a hour or a day. But by three and a half years or any other amount of time that really matters to them as they go about their lives.
In a sense, Boeing is very lucky. Airplanes are a big purchase and customers have very few choices. So most are willing to wait through lengthy delays because they have limited options.
The rest of us aren't so lucky. Our customers typically have lots of choices and our ability to deliver on our promises is essential to keeping them engaged, happy and successful. We need to make compelling promises and be committed and organized enough to meet them.
We win in business and in life when we don't keep our customers (or anyone) waiting. Because time is the one thing that once lost can never be found.