Leadership | Management / Strategy

Want to save your company? Follow Ford’s two-step blueprint

Looking for something new to read? Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company.

“Bill,” you’re saying, “that sounds dry as dust. I rather read the classifieds.”

Knock yourself out, but I’m telling you, this ain’t your average business book. First of all, the 2012 Wall Street Journal best-seller reads more like a thriller. Author Bryce Hoffman knows how to tell a great story.

Second of all, it’s nothing short of a blueprint for how to run a business.

A flight engineer by trade, Mulally saved Boeing from collapse in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Ford hired him as CEO in 2006 and asked him to do what many thought was impossible — fix a toxic corporate culture and turn an iconic but damaged American business into an automotive juggernaut, and do all of that in the midst of the worst recession our country had seen in 70 years.

Mulally did all of that and more. In the process, he became one of the greatest CEOs corporate America has ever seen. It wasn’t easy — in fact, given Ford’s stale culture, multinational presence, and complex labor and supplier networks, no corporate turnaround has been more complex.

But according to Hoffman, Mulally’s blueprint can be boiled down to two simple steps:

  • A non-negotiable weekly meeting pulse with a laser focus on the company’s data.
  • A one-team emphasis on working together.

The centerpiece of that blueprint was what Mulally called a “business plan review,” or BPR, a weekly meeting held on the same day, at the same time, in the same place, with mandatory attendance by all of Ford’s senior executives. The focus of those meetings were the numbers. Any issues behind the numbers were taken up in separate problem-solving meetings called “special attention reviews,” or SARs.

In other words: Review the numbers, smoke out the issues, solve the problems. That was Step 1.

Step 2 was to improve the health of the Ford team.

This was no easy task. Before Mulally arrived, Ford’s culture could be summed up in four words: “Every man for himself.” But Mulally insisted on open, honest assessments. Under his watch, no one would ever get in trouble for reporting bad news. Bad news was viewed simply as an opportunity to solve problems. Once Ford’s executives realized they wouldn’t be punished for reporting bad numbers, they started reporting them everywhere. That gave them plenty of problems to solve — and plenty of room to improve. And improve they did.

“Mulally and his team pulled off one of the great­est comebacks in business history,” Hoffman wrote. “As the rest of Detroit collapsed, Ford went from the brink of bankruptcy to being the most profitable automaker in the world.”

So what does that mean for us?

As Hoffman writes, it means that “Mulally’s serial success also proves that his unique approach to management — the weekly meetings, devotion to data, and emphasis on working together — is portable. … He is more certain than ever that the Mulally method is as applicable to small non-profits as it is to major multinational corporations.”

The folks at EOS Worldwide could have told you that years ago.

A weekly meeting pulse, a laser focus on data, and a commitment to building a cohesive, functional, healthy team are at the center of the EOS model. It’s an operating system for how to get more out of your business. Alan Mulally knew it, Ford knew it, and the folks at EOS want the rest of the world to know it, too.

If you want to take your business to the next level, you need a vision that’s shared by everyone in your organization, you need the discipline and accountability to execute on that vision, and you need a healthy, cohesive team working with you to realize that dream.

There are lots of complexities and moving parts involved in making those things happen, but the blueprint is really that simple.

How strong is your business? 
Use the free EOS Organizational Checkup to gauge the strength of your business … and to find out whether you’re ready to take your business to the next level.

Take the Organizational Checkup here.


William D. Sheridan