Alan Mulally’s Mind Map Doesn’t Include Lean?


    Can Alan Mulally save Ford? – May. 11, 2009

    Interesting story last month about Ford and CEO Alan Mulally. He's a Toyota admirer and Lean devotee' from his time at Boeing. FORTUNE magazine was allowed to share a diagram that Mulally drew up before the interviews. Click on it for a larger view (I couldn't find it online, so I scanned it)… interesting that Lean/Ford Production System isn't there in the company strategy.

    The piece by Alex Taylor III is very interesting — he might be the best auto industry writer around.

    I've heard a similar story about Mulally being new to the Ford culture and having to create a climate of openness — a “no problems is a problem” culture as the Toyota expression goes:

    Mulally instituted color coding for reports: green for good, yellow for caution, red for problems. Managers coded their operations green at the first couple of meetings to show how well they were doing, but Mulally called them on it. “You guys, you know we lost a few billion dollars last year,” he told the group. “Is there anything that's not going well?” After that the process loosened up. Americas boss Mark Fields went first. He admitted that the Ford Edge, due to arrive at dealers, had some technical problems with the rear lift gate and wasn't ready for the start of production. “The whole place was deathly silent,” says Mulally. “Then I clapped, and I said, ‘Mark, I really appreciate that clear visibility.' And the next week the entire set of charts were all rainbows.”

    Mulally appreciated the honesty, rather than wanting Fields to hide the truth. Seems like a good start.

    The one thing that rubs me about wrong is the “me me me” orientation that Mulally seemed to have in preparation for the interview. He prepared a one-page guide, for the writer's benefit, to his own leadership style and characteristics? Mulally's here to save the company? (this all comes out in the FORTUNE piece).

    Does that seem a bit self-absorbed to be a truly effective leader?

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    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.


    1. From the article, he comes across as a weird, intense dude. But wasn't Henry Ford also?

      He talks about partnering with all stakeholders… quality… so it seems maybe Lean Thinking is embedded in there?

    2. I felt like Mullaly was watching me from a corner waiting for approval – his energy wiped me out by the fourth paragraph: I agree, this is great writing by the author.

      Is the absence of the word "Lean" from this diagram is a problem? It may be safe to say that since Lean is a means to the end, or a strategy to fulfill some vision, we should not expect to see the word "Lean" on this map. This is kind of a rule within hoshin planning, right? "Don't confuse means with the end." We don't want to achieve "Lean", we want to satisfy customers, increase market share, increase profits, etc. How we achieve those things is a whole different matter and open to debate.

      With that said, the mind map wasn't at all impressive. This looked like half the psuedo-general-business-management-jargon that comes out of a strategic management class from a group of ambitious students, resulting in everybody staring at each other, waiting for the instructor to tell them their next move. What Mullaly does with this vision will be interesting to say the least and I dare say that the results will speak for themselves.

    3. Agreed, you don't see the actual word "lean" scribbled in his notes, but I do see a few phrases that are representative of a lean approach. For example:

      1. "Manufacturing flexibility" – Somewhat vague, but I take this as producing multiple models on the same platform

      2. "Match production to real demand"

      3. "Improve relationships dramatically" in reference to dealers and suppliers

    4. It's probably a sign of progress that the Lean thinking isn't "foreign" or a "program" any more at Ford.

      What's odd is that Mulally seems to write like a teenage girl. And Fields has a mullet (still?). But that's not very "respect of people" for me to say those things. So sorry.

    5. Mark,

      1) Right size

      2) Manuf Flexibility

      3) Match prod and demand

      4) Qual, fuel eff, safety et al

      5) Benchmarking

      I'd say that qualifies.

      Shingo did not call it lean when he was doing it, he just did it. I have friends in hospitals that will not use the word but are pursuing a quality and safety agenda religiously.

      I'm not sure that the lack of the word should be of great concern.


    6. Mark,

      As to the self centredness. I've just spent a week editing CV's of:

      A acute CEO, also a qualified Physician

      A Medical Director (14 pages of accomplishments, 32 publications in last 10 years, teacher, examiner and so on and so forth)

      A COO with a "Honour"

      and a a former HR Director for a large aerospace company. This is for someone to form a view about those concerned.

      I'm not sure that providing a briefing document about who he is, what he has done and how he works is necessarily a bad thing, in fact arguably it could only be helpful in forming a view about his style and approach to the problem.

      I suppose this is all to do with intent.


    7. The personal executive profile that Mulally created seemed to strike Taylor as a bit over the top and Taylor has spent a lot of time with a lot of executives.

      I'm not saying it is all bad or that Mulally is a horrible guy. Just very different and interesting, it seems.

      Mulally lives just 3 miles from the office. GM's Alfred Sloan, back in the day slept just above his office in Detroit and lived just blocks from NY headquarters. Just a bit of trivia.

    8. Mark,
      As an aerospace industry guy, I'm an unapologetic Alan Mulally fan and have been since he pulled Boeing out of the tank.
      Mulally's mantra, in every interview, speach, and document is that Ford will give customers vehicles that they "want and value."
      That's the focus of his Hoshin for the company and it's certainly in keeping with lean thinking. It's what has been lacking in the companies that gave us the H3 and the Chrysler Aspen.

      Self-centered in the way he pimps himself for the media? Perhaps. But ultimately you have to look at the way Ford's workforce looks at him. He's getting a lot of respect because he's putting value ahead of cost, he's delaying programs to fix problems, and he's value honest assessments above appearance. Those are big changes in Dearborn, changes the rank and file appreciates more than anybody.

    9. Under "One Team" it says ford will be a "lean global enterprise" and in the box on the right it talks about continuous improvement…


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