Hal Macomber, writing in Reforming Project Management, tells us that Jim Womack, has been advising Ford CEOs for many years about how to stay out of trouble: ‘copy Toyota:’
“…my prescription for new Ford CEO Alan Mullaly is the same (as it was for former CEO Jac Nassar): Fundamentally rethink the supplier management system. Fundamentally rethink the product development system. And fundamentally rethink the production system from order to raw materials and from raw materials to delivery, with special attention to the information management system. (Much can still be learned from Ford’s Mazda subsidiary, which became an able pupil of Toyota after a crisis in 1973.) Above all, fundamentally rethink what mangers do and how they do it in order to regain the gemba consciousness that originally took Ford to world dominance. In brief, Ford needs to remake itself once more, this time in the image of the company that copied Ford’s original system: Toyota.”
Why is he repeating a failed prescription, and as if the listener has not attempted to apply it? Greg points out that there is a major failure of speaking and listening happening here. Is what Womack is saying not sensical? Are the listeners not listening? Are they interpreting something different than what Womack is thinking himself?
Can it be possible that no one at Ford has done the homework to re-think what they are doing? Yes, it is.
More likely is the way that Greg put it: the cultural background in which people in the US tend to ask these questions – and to listen to Jim Womack, for example – is shallowly connected to questions of improving for the next quarter, for the next model year, and improving the things they are making. In that tradition, it is easy for no one to notice that what needs to be changed is the way that people are thinking about what they are doing, how they are oriented to the business, how they speak and listen to one another.
We don’t like the interpretation of our earlier list of possible sources of the failure of Ford, are they simply too stupid, block-headed, pig-headed, obtuse, perversely concerned with greedy topics, ensnarled in historic fights with labor and labor advocates, etc., etc.??
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