The Ford "Way Forward" Press Conference


    I was able to watch the Ford Press conference, as carried by CNBC. Here are my first reactions, typing as I watch. Detroit News Article here, as well.

    • Reporter says they are closing 7 vehicle assembly plants, 3 more than expected, through 2012.
    • Bill Ford says they will not stand for “thinking short-term” — I hope they can really follow Toyota in that regard.
    • Part of this new long-term focus, the company will quit providing quarterly earnings guidance to Wall St. (joining the list of companies that have stopped doing this). Is Ford being responsive to this particular customer? Wall St. seems to demand this kind of information, right or wrong. They're also stopping annual advice, Ford says “that may be contrary to the advice of those of you in this room. We cannot succeed in the long-term if we are only focused on the short-term.” He then mentioned the need to focus on customers and products, that “sustainable” results will follow.
    • B. Ford also wants employees to have “more freedom, to take smart risks, and to demonstrate their creativity.” That also seems Toyota-like, in philosophy.
    • B. Ford saying the new approach is”If they buy it, we will build it” sounds like a desire to move toward pull or even build-to-order manufacturing, as opposed to the “business as usual” idea of “If we build it, they will buy it.”
    • In his introduction, B. Ford talked about different types of improvement and efficiency. I'm pretty sure “… and on the factory floor” was the LAST thing mentioned. That doesn't seem accidental. Most of us lean guys have a shop floor bias, while most automotive leaders have a marketing or finance focus. Doesn't seem like B. Ford has a shopfloor focus.
    • Ford stock is up about 3 cents per share during this speech. CNBC putting the real-time stock price up sure illustrates “short-term” focus. It went up another 2 cents when B. Ford started a new “my great grandfather” story (Henry Ford).
    • Ugh, CNBC cut away from the press conference. Their talking head reaction is that the plan is “much more aggressive” (in terms of cuts) than Wall St. expected. It's frustrating that all they (Wall St. and the media) seem to focus on is cuts, costs, and numbers, not the cultural transformation that Ford wants to undertake.
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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.



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