Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Good Luck To Ford

With great interest, I have followed the latest drama of the Big Three ( now known as the Shrinking Three) . The turnaround plans recently announced with great fanfare by Mr. Bill Ford were not surprising-cut jobs, close plants and squeeze suppliers. Sure there were faint glimpses of hopeful vision thrown in the plan about doing business with a focus on innovation and changing the business as usual culture.

My initial reaction to the plan was neutral. That's the problem, no excitement and no rally cry to gather around. Based on their plan, my belief is that Ford will not regain the market share its lost over the years of molasses management however Ford will survive. (Smaller but still kicking). Basically, I have little faith that Ford's culture can really change. As a Pro-American Manufacturing professional(and Ford owner), I hope that I am wrong and I wish Ford the best of luck!

If Ford is seriously wanting to challenge "Business as Usual" and reverse their downward spiral, here are a few suggestions. (Same goes for GM, since I'm also a Buick owner).

1. Upper Management is to accept responsibility for the current condition of their company. Look inward at their decisions and policies instead of blaming everybody and everything else. The first reorganization should be in the top tiers, not at the hourly level.

2. Forget about the practice of hiring management with "automotive experience only" requirements. Ford needs to hire based on talent. Get the best talent available from anywhere you can find it.

3. Forget about cutting costs. Instead focus on eliminating waste and adding value from the customers point of view. Profits will follow. If Ford management does not understand the difference or what this means, there is no hope for a true culture change.

4. Put manufacturing people in charge. Its all about the cars and trucks. Listening to finance and accounting may help in number crunching but the passion is in the product.

5. Be humble and seek knowledge from examples of Toyota and Honda. Learn the ways to improve and make it fit within the "new" culture of Ford.

6. Kill the current overpriced ad campaigns-they do not work. Slash the ad budget by 90% and cut all the different ads for all the different models. Replace the ads with ONE powerful, central theme of a simple message. The spot would feature Mr. Bill Ford talking to America by simply saying Ford is changing for you (the American Car buyers) featuring improved style, performance and safety. Let us prove it to you and you be the judge. Short, simple and run only a fraction of the times. The print ads should be the exact same message. One message, one ad concept to sell Ford not each model.

7. The main problem is not over capacity, it is overhead. Keep the factories and adjust the overhead cost to match volume.

Finally, to improve you must go to gemba! I wonder if Mr. Ford has personally visited any of the 14 proposed plants set for closure/idle or the decisions were based on reports/presentation data? Shame on any senior management that fails to regularly visit their own manufacturing plants especially if they are contemplating closing one down.You can not improve or make solid decisions from afar, roll up your sleeve and go to gemba to gain awareness and true understanding.

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