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Posted on May 26, 2017

What’s The Vision Behind The Shake-Up At Ford?

What’s The Vision Behind The Shake-Up At Ford?

An executive shake-up has occurred at the Ford Motor Company. CEO Mark Fields stepped down and a new CEO has been appointed. What can customers, employees, investors, and suppliers now expect from this 114-year-old company?

It appears the new order of the day is…. to first determine a clear vision and strategy.

On Monday May 22, 2017, Ford Motor Co. executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. introduced Jim Hackett as the new CEO to a room full of investors, various media outlets, and to the public through livestream video.

As the second largest U.S.-based automaker, and fifth largest globally, Ford is under a lot of pressure to adapt to a changing world. From Tesla’s rapid advancement of its electric cars, to the array of companies frantically working on self-driving vehicles – not to mention the future of robotics and artificial intelligence – Ford must create a clear vision of where it will play in the future.

As Bill Ford succinctly outlined during this livestream:

We need to modernize our business…. continue to develop, and also invent new businesses. Any one of those is a big task, we have to do all three.”

Ok. So what does the ‘new guy’ see as his role at Ford?

Determining Vision and Strategy

As the new CEO at Ford, Jim Hackett stated that he sees his role as creating a clear vision and strategy:

“The biggest challenge we’ll have here is to see the future and getting everyone to see their opportunity in that. And secondly, that it is our right to win there.

But the future of Ford is not clear at all. (In all fairness, at the time of this interview, Hackett had been in the job for less than 72 hours) So it wasn’t surprising to hear him say:

“When we’re ready to talk about it, we’ll be really clear about it.”

Most business leaders would agree that it’s not easy to create a compelling and meaningful vision that generates a profit – especially a $150 billion business. As Hackett continued:

“The future is ambiguous until you can prove it.

So how will Hackett remove the ambiguity? He went on to say:

“If you thought of strategy like a Rubik’s Cube, it’s not just solving one side, there’s lots of sides to the problem. I’m trying to design a team that’s a little closer to Bill and I that allows us to make decisions very clearly for the organization.”

Hackett later lists the components of the Rubik’s cube (strategy) for Ford as: Industrial, Global, Customers, Quality, and the Future (if there’s a fifth and sixth side to make a cube, he didn’t mention them).

Time will tell if Jim Hackett and his team can solve the Rubik’s cube for Ford and create a clear vision and strategy.

On this note, I think Bill Ford provided some helpful context for why the CEO change:

“The clock-speed in which the world is moving… requires us to make decisions at a faster pace.

It’s as if automakers are just now waking up to the realization that they better do something fast or they won’t be around in 10 years.

Bill Ford then went on to postulate:

“If we’re going to really win in this new world… it’s about the speed of decision-making. We have to empower the teams… and we have to move fast. We have to trust our people to move fast. It’s not command and control… We have to be quicker and that will happen through empowerment.”

Now, I can appreciate the need for speed and empowerment. These are hallmarks of modern start-ups. But I have to wonder if this is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse?

Direction vs. Speed

As a student of leadership for many years, here’s what I know: it’s the job of leaders to provide

  • clear vision – a picture of the future of where we’re going;
  • clear mission – a sense of purpose of why we’re doing what we do;
  • clear values – a set of principles to use in decision-making to keep everyone focused and on track.

Only when clear direction has been set can you properly empower your people to move forward in a cohesive and coherent manner – at any speed.

Without clearly stated vision, mission, and values, faster decision-making will only lead nowhere faster.

Let’s hope Jim Hackett and Bill Ford can quickly craft a unique, relevant, and sustainable vision. AND finally list a few meaningful core values (as you’ll be hard pressed to find much about values anywhere on the company’s website).

Oh, and my interest in all this?

As a long-time Ford owner and brand advocate, I’m watching with great interest to see how the new CEO will lead Ford Motor Co. forward into the future. A clear, profitable plan is needed rather soon because the clock is ticking…

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What do you think Ford’s vision should be going forward?