Run your business like Ford

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.   -Henry Ford

Several years ago I had the opportunity to consult with the senior team of Ford of Europe on a massive turnaround.  After 12 CEOs in 22 years and as many different strategies, Ford of Europe was losing money and market share.  Enter one of the best CEOs I have had the privilege to work with in my 35 year consulting career, Lewis Booth, a Ford executive who had previously been CEO of Mazda and South African Motors (a Ford company).

Lewis knew exactly what needed to be done; improve quality, focus on designing and building cars people wanted to buy, and get the senior team to work together.  And working together as one team, instead of independent fiefdoms, created the real breakthrough. With all the information available and with transparency it became easy for the senior team to move the strategy forward. With great leadership (and great humour) Lewis and the team led a stunning turnaround.

Lewis is now Executive Vice President and CFO of Ford Corporate and his experience and  skills, coupled with the vision, optimism, belief and leadership of CEO Alan Mulally, along with a committed executive team are creating one of the greatest corporate turnarounds on record. Everywhere you look there are business articles and presentations about Ford and its path to a successful turnaround.  And the Ford story is rebuilding hope throughout American and the world that big companies can be well run.

One of the keys to the success of Ford is Mulally’s commitment to transparency, working together, breaking down silos, and focusing on the few key strategic imperatives.  Contrast the way the Ford leadership team works together to how most companies are run, with the individual members of the senior team more focused on their own departmental goals and budgets than on moving the enterprise strategy forward.  As a result there is little openness, little transparency, and lots of time wasted on budget squabbles. Sound familiar?

I guess that’s why Mulally is so focused on his vision of One Ford : One Team, One Plan, One Goal.  Putting the overall strategy first and functional objectives second is the only way to win the long game.

Why not run your business like Ford?  A word of caution.  It takes real leadership, on everyone’s part!

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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1 Response to Run your business like Ford

  1. Pingback: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate . . . | John R Childress . . . rethinking leadership

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