Ford has a better idea
September 15, 2006 Ford announced two milestones this week. The
first is a new CEO coming from outside the company, in this case
Boeing. The second is a restructuring plan that everybody knew was
coming. We just didnt know how deep, or how far they would cut.
This company is very quickly becoming a case study at Business School
for how NOT to run a company. The company has a management team that
has been asleep at the switch for at least 25 years. You would think
they woke up this morning for the first time, and said we have to cut
Lets start with whats missing from the plan, the MASTER
plan that Ford is now proposing. I have reviewed all publicly
disseminated documents and this is what I conclude. I dont see a
word anywhere talking about LETS MAKE CARS OF HIGH QUALITY
THAT PEOPLE WANT TO BUY.
The only thing these guys talk about is financial engineering. Theyve
blown it, theyve blown it so bad, that the question is, are they
so far down in the hole that they cant dig themselves out. They
may be at that point. Lets deal with reality. America is NOW a
high cost producer of just about anything that involves manufacturing.
In 1900, half our population was involved in agriculture. Think, half
of us were farmers, or farming related.
With the continued industrialization of this country, we moved from
the farm to machines, to manufacturing. America was a manufacturing
powerhouse for decades. The latest census shows that we are a 75%
service society, and about 4% agriculture. The rest is manufacturing,
and that sector will continue to decline.
Automobile manufacturing is the tip of the problem. We will come to
a point perhaps, where there will be little to no car manufacturing in
this country. Its sad, but it is what it is. We have to deal
with it. Ford has not wanted to deal with it for decades. They wait
till now to say, we have a problem, Hello, anybody home, are you
I was talking to an individual recently who has sold Lincoln cars
(owned by Ford) for 25 years. He told me about a woman that bought a
Ford Navigator, and drove immediately from the dealership on a trip to
Florida. The horror show began in New Jersey. Windows started to open
and close on their own. Internal lights went on and off. By the time
she made it to Maryland, she had to leave the car at a Ford
Two weeks later, the company decided to give her a new car.
Apparently while building the car, a worker put some kind of sharp
tool through the wiring harness in the engine compartment. The shorts
were everywhere, and affecting every major electronic component of the
vehicle. This is not an isolated incident. Ford use to advertise, Where
quality is number 1. Had they put quality in their cars through
the years, they wouldnt have a problem today.
What do the people who run Ford drink at night? What do they smoke?
Do they think everyone else outside their company is functioning in
the same manner that they are. The Japanese continue to set a high
standard. The standard may be so high that we Americans may not be
able to reach it anymore. Is that a reason for Ford not to try?
Ford has 75,000 hourly workers in the United States. The company
has offered to buy out all of them. If you have a FULL year on the
job, you get a $100,000 buyout, and healthcare benefits for 6 months.
If you have either 30 years on the job, or you are age 55 with 15
years or more on the job, you get $140,000 to leave immediately. You
also get to keep your pension, but you give up retirement health care
Workers are also being offered college benefits with 8 other
options. These are people who in a good year are use to making a
$100,000 with overtime. Where do we stand now? You have a 100% UNHAPPY
workforce. You know how a car spins its wheels in the snow. You are
going to have every worker at Ford spinning his wheels, do I take the
deal, do I not take the deal. They will be flipping coins trying to
figure it out. Meanwhile the executive ranks are going to be saying to
themselves, What am I doing here.
The whole game plan is about as disruptive to a corporation as
disruptive can be. How is anything going to get done including
manufacturing well designed cars that people are comfortable buying?
Wait, theres more?
This whole deal has been announced before the new CEO, Alan Mulally
of Boeing takes over in the next couple of weeks. Is their any reason
why this announcement couldnt wait two weeks for the new man to
come in? Ford made a CONSCIENCE decision to announce immediately. They
didnt want their new CEO to take the pubic hit for adverse
public reactions that are going to come from the latest restructuring
Can Ford come back?
Its really a good question. The answer is that its
going to be tough under all scenarios. The best bet they have going
for them is bringing in an OUTSIDER. Einstein once said, The
significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of
thinking with which we created them. I believe this is a
cardinal rule of management as well. The problems of a company cannot
be solved by the same executives who were there when the problems were
The executives now in charge at Ford are part of the problem. They
in fact are the problem. They have too much invested in an old way of
thinking, an old management style that is no longer appropriate for
the 21st century. In fact, it hasnt been appropriate for 25
years, which is why the Japanese are eating Ford for lunch. It may
still be too little, too late, and what about QUALITY and DESIGN,
still not a word from Ford.
Goodbye and good luck