Executive Briefings

Bad News Bears the Seeds of Ford's Turnaround Success

The best bosses tend to be those who welcome bad news -- "Hit me with your best shot!" -- and keep hope alive.

That balance is at the heart of the remarkable turnaround at Ford, says Ford Americas President Mark Fields, who tells a story that conveys how CEO Alan Mulally set the stage for the automaker's recovery.

"We had a culture where, if you reported bad news, you were done," explained Fields, recalling a 2006 meeting with Ford's senior global executives at headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

At Ford, the standard  practice in these meetings is to use red, yellow and green charts to report on the status of projects. At this particular meeting -- like at most Ford meetings back in the day -- "All the charts were green," Fields said.

"I showed a chart with red on it. All the chairs moved away from me. I thought, 'What the hell-this is the reality.'"

Fields' red chart signaled problems with Ford's soon-to-be-introduced Edge crossover vehicle. "I said, 'We have a problem with this launch.' There was dead silence...

"And then Alan starts clapping."

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The best bosses tend to be those who welcome bad news -- "Hit me with your best shot!" -- and keep hope alive.

That balance is at the heart of the remarkable turnaround at Ford, says Ford Americas President Mark Fields, who tells a story that conveys how CEO Alan Mulally set the stage for the automaker's recovery.

"We had a culture where, if you reported bad news, you were done," explained Fields, recalling a 2006 meeting with Ford's senior global executives at headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

At Ford, the standard  practice in these meetings is to use red, yellow and green charts to report on the status of projects. At this particular meeting -- like at most Ford meetings back in the day -- "All the charts were green," Fields said.

"I showed a chart with red on it. All the chairs moved away from me. I thought, 'What the hell-this is the reality.'"

Fields' red chart signaled problems with Ford's soon-to-be-introduced Edge crossover vehicle. "I said, 'We have a problem with this launch.' There was dead silence...

"And then Alan starts clapping."

Read Full Article