His "heart is still beating and the employee keeps cowering", sarcasm is the sign of a war weary General. It was like a slap in the face from General Patton during WWII in Sicily, Italy, where a service man received one when breaking down under a grueling ordeal of battle while recovering the medical ward. McNerney's slip was not meant to be funny nor encouraging. It was an exhale from a long battle from the Airline war with Airbus. Patton, in this example continued on, and lead his troops to victory over many battles after this action on that solder. The General ended his war unceremoniously in a Jeep accident.
McNerney, with all his accomplishment in decision making and leading, let it slip out he is ready to retire. Losing professionalism in a moment like his 65st Birthday contemplation, demonstrates its time to step back and not slap the soldiers. The workforce too says things on a daily basis while on the work floor, as they continue to grind out aircraft. Its part of the job and makes those paychecks tolerable. However, coming from McNerney it becomes a symbol of the corporate mentality from those who writes the checks. Now this apologetic leader affirms corporate cynicism in one statement. It fell flat, as it should.
How expensive is that McNerney exhale? That remains to be seen when labor negotiations comes up next. By then McNerney may sit on a board in an advising role. The workers are only as good as instructed by the chain of command. They don't cower and McNerney has a tired heart by making a tongue in cheek comment. At my former work it was always known that a humorous statement was the conveyance of true thought. A form of communication is joking your message allowing a speaker flexibility for falling back into a position of "just joking". McNerney's just joking apology slips out from a tired heart. His sentiment is both a recognition of corporate hang-over and his own cowering struggles with the giant airline framer.
A lot can made from this slip of tongue, if reviewing his own company history and tieing it to his cowering statement. Boeing needs fresh legs in the game for both its employees, and for its vigor towards advancements. The corporate attitude will always infect decision making, like the common cold. Labor restlessness will always be an inflammation of its corporate muscles where it will need an analgesic application of benefits. Boeing will need a new found energy from its leadership that has the courage, strength and understanding. This combination of attributes is needed to continue its progression steps forward, and for a validation of the journey it just traveled.
McNerney's most recent exclamation is a career sigh and exhale guised within the frame work of sarcasm. There is a lot of corporate truth found within that McNerney sigh.