Game Changer: Jim Barnes, Boeing Canada

With almost three decades in the defence and security industry, Jim Barnes, Director – Canada Global Marketing & Deputy Managing Director of Boeing Canada has seen a lot of when it comes to fighter jets. Jim began working for Boeing in 1988 as an aerospace engineer where he was involved in “designing, testing and building high-performance fighter aircraft.” His dream though was to become a military pilot but due to issues with his eyesight, he turned to the “next best thing” – working on fighter jets.

Barnes was selected as Vanguard’s latest Game Changer due to the impact that he as a leader is making within the industry with innovative products from Boeing. “Over my career, I’ve been pretty fortunate working for a company like Boeing, which provided me with an opportunity to work on fighters around the world,” Jim says.

Here is the rest of his interview with Vanguard.

What is your role in your organization today?

I’m the director of global marketing in Canada for Boeing Defense, Space & Security, one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the deputy managing director of Boeing Canada. Here in Ottawa, I oversee strategic planning and business development activities for Boeing’s defense products and services to the Canadian government. I’m also responsible for the operation of the Boeing Ottawa office, with a focus on government relations and customer satisfaction.

What was your worst moment?

That is an easy one … anytime a customer goes with another offering! Besides time and money, there is a lot of blood, sweat and tears that go into a large campaign. It’s always disappointing when we’re not selected, but I’ve found over my career that there is a lot to be learned, both good and bad, from a negative outcome. It’s those experiences that can be used to better position you in the next campaign.

What was your aha moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us that story?

The importance of understanding each stakeholder’s most important requirements. It sounds so simple, but it rarely is. Sometimes you can get laser-focused on cost and lose sight of capability or vice versa. And you never want to underestimate the importance of industrial benefits. It is only through unparalleled customer understanding that you can get the right balance of capability, cost and industrial benefit into your final offer.

Step back and analyze your journey, what is the takeaway you want to give our audience?

Never get too high or too low during the roller coaster ride called a campaign. This is easy to say, but tough to do, since most people working business development are pretty passionate about their work. Also, the saying “patience is a virtue” could not be truer than when you’re working on a large defence and security file, where it may take a customer years to decide on their best path forward.

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

The pride displayed by a customer operating our products, like the CF-18 Hornet, C-17 Globemaster and CH-147 Chinook, on a consistent basis — especially when these products are used by the Canadian forces in harm’s way and bring them home safely, as well as for humanitarian efforts around the world. You see that same type of pride when walking in any of our production facilities. What we do matters!

What is the best advice you received?

Listen twice as much as you talk. I noticed early in my career that in my excitement to respond to a customer’s question, I would cut them off before they were finished. By waiting and listening, not only can you properly respond to a question, but you may also learn more about the customer’s thoughts and concerns.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

Positive outlook. I’m not sure where I heard this, but the words I try to live by are these: “Every day is a good day; some are just better than others.”

What people or organization do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?

Elementary school teachers! This profession has to be creative and resourceful in order to keep students engaged, so they’ll learn to love topics ranging from reading to mathematics. Teachers also take advantage of evolving technology to help them keep their students moving forward.

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

Given the global economic environment, our focus is on providing the right capability at the right time and with a predictable, affordable lifecycle cost. Super Hornet is an example of that. At a time when Minister of Defence Sajjan has expressed concerns about an imminent capability gap, Boeing stands ready to provide combat-proven F/A-18 aircraft that not only replace aging CF-18s but upgrade the entire fleet through capabilities including buddy tanking, communications, and more – all with minimal changes to the Royal Canadian Air Force’s current support and sustainment framework.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?

Innovation in the aerospace industry is stifled by the economics resulting from global conflicts: the rise and fall of oil prices, stagnating economies, competing domestic and international polices, and budget constraints. But having such roadblocks is also what inspires innovation. Just when things seem impossible, we step up to the challenge with leaps forward in technology. It’s happened time and time again in this industry throughout history.

What are the biggest impediments to innovation in today’s enterprise?

In short, I’d say fear is the impediment to innovation – fear of what’s new and different. Innovation takes new, bold ways of thinking, and we need to teach it, encourage it, nurture it. We need to bring in outsiders to challenge how we approach our work and to foster a diverse new generation of aerospace workers who inherently think differently than we do. That’s one of the reasons Boeing invests so much time and effort into STEM initiatives like Ladies Learning Code and Engineers Without Borders. These groups are building our future.

How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

Boeing’s innovations go beyond our products. We’re designing differently, we’re building differently, and we’re streamlining our processes, reducing risk and costs. At the same time, we are looking at all market areas and determining where we can best find solutions for our customers.

Echo Ranger is a product that exemplifies such innovation. This unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) is a game-changing capability in that it’s fully autonomous, not requiring a launch or recovery ship for operation. The result is significantly reduced operating costs for the customer, in addition to greater flexibility in deployment of the vehicle. It’s clear evidence of Boeing’s ability to create innovative and affordable products in all market areas – from space to undersea.

What technologies, business models and trends will drive the biggest challenges in your industry over the next two years?

Customers need us to infuse our world-class platforms and services with the full benefits of the information revolution. Doing that will drive improvements in situational awareness and understanding, while also allowing customers to take full advantage of emerging advanced technologies. Robust, secure connectivity is also something customers need and want, both now and in the future, and we’re working hard to build those capabilities.

At the same time, Boeing wants to be the company that redefines value for customers by breaking the cost curve. As I said before, the right capability at the right time and the right cost is imperative in coming years.

What is your parting piece of advice?

Have fun. The challenges we face on a daily basis can sometimes be overwhelming. Throwing in some fun helps put challenges into perspective and allows you to deal with them accordingly.

Author: Marcello Sukhdeo

Marcello is the managing editor of Vanguard, IT in Canada and Canadian Government Executive and the host of Vanguard Radio and WRLWND Radio podcasts. He is an avid technology and security enthusiast, who has worked on content leadership strategies for a number of industries including the public sector, life science, technology and defence.

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