Mike Pierce's blog

Leadership for Mission and Team Success

I recently attended my first meeting of the Corporate Advisory Board of the Masters of Engineering Management (MEM) program at Case Western Reserve University. The MEM program takes engineering students from around the world and furthers their skills and knowledgebase, enabling them to be better equipped to accelerate the value of their engineering background into the business environment.

Creating an Environment for Success

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to get back into the habit of reading books. For some reason, I got distracted from this important habit and reduced my consumption of printed materials to magazines, newsfeeds and the like. Personally, it was a unique sports year for me. As a Chicago native living in Cleveland for almost twenty years, I was treated to the Cavs World Championship and the Cubs versus Indians World Series. My Bleacher Report app saw a lot of action this year!

I missed reading books though. The depth and context you can only get into when reading a book is more thought-provoking than a 5000-word magazine article. Considering this, a book I recently finished and strongly recommend is General Stanley McChrystal’s, Team of Teams. The baseline for the book is McChrystal’s success at turning the military’s top-down chain of command protocol upside-down.

Building Better Habits: Creating New Year’s Resolutions with Focus

We are all creatures of habit. Intentionally or not, we tend to get into habits. Sometimes they are good, sometimes not. And, we look at certain milestones to assess what bad habits we need to get rid of, and what good ones to start. For example, the birth of a child convinces one to stop smoking. A relocation prompts one to get out and explore the area instead of being sedentary in a comfortable environment.  And, of course, fitness centers get crowded in January as the end of the Holiday season signals a time to exercise and lose weight.

No one purposefully gets into a bad habit with the intention of getting into a bad habit. It just happens. And breaking those habits requires energy. Whether the physical energy of exercise, or the mental and psychological energy of the discipline it takes to eat right, devote time to pray, or read.

Making Service Your Trademark

“Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see it, they will want to come back to see you do it again, and they will want to bring others to show them how well you do what you do.”  --  Walt Disney

I saw this quote in a stairwell while at a meeting with Disney in Orlando and was struck by its clarity, its simplicity and the passion it implies. I have thought a lot about this quote since my visit to Disney. On the surface, it is clear how it applies to Disney’s theme parks and anyone who has visited or studied Disney can understand and appreciate the message it implies to any “cast member.” 

But how does this apply to a manufacturer, a contractor or an engineer?

Leading the Way with Agility

I belong to a peer group of executives hosted by Vistage. At a recent meeting, the speaker was Mike Richardson, a very accomplished executive who is now consulting companies on being more agile. To him, corporate agility is all about planning for future growth, while always keeping an eye out for potential disasters that lurk around the corner. Two take-aways from the talk resonated with me.

First, ... "The task of imagination is to do the work of crisis without the crisis." (Roberto Unger). Think about the implications of this as we near the end of a calendar, and maybe fiscal, year. For all the plans and perspectives we go through in thinking about the future, do we consider the downside and the potential for a crisis? Fundamental to this consideration is an open and searching dialog amongst a management team. 

Aviation and Aerospace - The Second 50 Years

The Austin Company celebrates our centennial of serving the aviation and aerospace industry this year. This centennial is marked by many significant milestone projects, beginning in 1916 with the creation of a facility in Buffalo, NY, to manufacture training aircraft for the U.S. War Department as it prepared for the important role aviation would play in military, and later, civilian roles. A mere twelve years after Kitty Hawk, the industry was committed to producing nearly 7,000 JN-4 “Jenny’s” to train pilots. After the war was over, these planes sold for $200.

No Room for Complacency: Building Quality Culture

Quality, like safety, is a constant journey of fighting complacency, human nature, and in some ways, the basic laws of physics. 

The second law of thermodynamics states that all things tend to chaos unless acted upon by an outside force. I have written on this before and it bears repeating, as it relates to quality and safety. The essence of Newton’s law as it relates to quality and safety is that it takes effort to be safe and to apply quality practices. It takes extra effort to check your PPE, to remove a tripping hazard, to make sure barricades are properly anchored.

Aviation and Aerospace - The First 50 Years

As The Austin Company, Boeing, Aviation Week and others celebrate their centennial of Aviation in 2016, it is also, ironically the 50th anniversary of the start of Boeing’s Plant in Everett, Washington. In 1966, Boeing contracted with Austin to Design and Build the giant Everett Plant; and it had been fifty years since Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company made the same decision in Buffalo, New York.

For Austin, these are the bookends of the first fifty years in designing and constructing aviation facilities. There are striking similarities between the projects, while the proportions of the facilities are representatives of the magnitude of advancements in the industry. 

Doing the Right Thing: Corporate Social Responsibility

I have always kept a motto that if you do the right things, the right things will happen for you. This philosophy lends itself well to Company cultures and the environment we all work in. Our parent company, Kajima Corporation, has a significant portion of their website and annual report dedicated to CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility. A closer look at the website shows that Kajima’s CSR has several component strategies, including Compliance, Ethics, the Environment, Safety, the Community, and being a company that people are proud to work for.

A true benefit – a blessing even – that I get in my position is a front row seat to seeing how this dedication to Corporate Social responsibility works.

Pioneers in Aircraft Manufacturing Facility Design-Build

What was it like to design and build an aircraft manufacturing facility 100 years ago?

As Austin celebrates 100 years of designing and building world-class facilities for manufacturing, maintaining, and developing aircraft, airplanes and other aeroplanes, I wonder what it was like to do these projects 100 years go.

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