Free Advice For... Ford Motor Company
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Holmes Report

Free Advice For... Ford Motor Company

“Ford is already one step ahead of my counsel, as it has found a meaningful way to ‘package’ the painful changes in its ‘The Way Forward’ program. It may sound trivial, but these restructuring initiatives are so difficult and complex."

Paul Holmes

“Ford is already one step ahead of my counsel, as it has found a meaningful way to ‘package’ the painful changes in its ‘The Way Forward’ program. It may sound trivial, but these restructuring initiatives are so difficult and complex that a company the size of Ford needs to package all the changes in a way that sends the most positive message possible. That message needs to convey that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but that we will only reach the goal with enormous sacrifice. Second, education is key here.  A large portion of Ford’s employees, particularly those on the factory floor, likely don’t understand why Ford’s business model is so unsustainable and will need to be educated as to ‘how could this have happened?’ This is where Ford needs to over-communicate…. Third, whatever they do, they must demonstrate the utmost compassion and empathy for employees and retirees along the way. But they also need to remember that compassionate does not mean defensive.  They can project compassion while also projecting confidence.”
Michael Bayer, managing director, corporate communications, Financial Dynamics, New York

“My experience with Ford is that its associates are hardened, skeptical and resistant to change—with good reason. Ford employees have seen so many new initiatives introduced in recent years without success or logical conclusion, that they’ve simply taken the attitude that they can resist major change efforts and wait out whatever comes their way. My message to Ford employees would be to learn the lessons of IBM under Lou Gerstner: IBM had a clear and cogent message: ‘Change is a part of our life, and our performance is our only security for the future.’ Ford’s greatest challenge is its past: overcoming historical covenants with employees and labor unions, bloated compensation and benefit structures, pledges of good will for plants and operations that no longer produce vehicles that meet consumer interests or expectations, and a failure to adopt the visionary beliefs, investment strategies and clear actions for the future that have propelled Toyota to global leadership. Finally, I would encourage Ford to create new alignment among front-line managers and employees for its ‘Way Forward’ model. It’s a six-year plan, and employees will need to know key milestones that will signal their success or failure.”
Keith Burton, president, Insidedge, GolinHarris International

“To get ahead and stay ahead in the face of intense global competition, Ford, quite simply, has to be smarter and fitter than the competition: smarter in terms of a relentless customer focus and product strategy and fitter in terms of its cost basis and—more importantly—its workforce. The workforce has to be engaged and motivated so that it behaves with the energy, innovation and commitment required to deliver on the strategic direction. From what I can see, Ford seems to be making the right moves to restore its competitive strength in the North American business. Ford needs to be honest with the workers, acknowledging the pain today and on the road ahead—leading employees to the same conclusion Ford came to, the company has no choice about which actions to take if it is serious about its future. Ford needs to tell them that relentless competition is the new fact of life, and demonstrate through his actions that the company is smart enough and tough enough to compete by the new rules. In short, he needs to tell them that they are in the race to win.” 
Michael Chayes, president and CEO, Stromberg Consulting

“According to Mark Fields, head of Ford’s U.S. division, employees at all levels were involved in designing the latest restructuring plan. Ford needs to not only reinforce this to employees in subsequent communications, but also keep those employees—and many more—deeply engaged and involved from this point onward. Ford needs to frame this transformation and the value of each employee’s ideas in ways bordering on the overzealous to make sure employees fully understand the threat to Ford itself, as well as know that they play a key role in the solution. Nothing is more frustrating to employees undergoing massive change than to have no outlet for their desire to help fix the problem. Ford should make engaging employees from every corner of the organization the heart of executing the reorganization—including the formation of non-labor related employee councils, involvement in customer focus groups, brainstorms and suggestion programs. Above all, Ford must level with employees to give them an accurate picture of where things could head—both good and bad. This is no time for rosy, unrealistic outlooks.”
Christopher Hannegan, head of employee engagement practice, Edelman

“I’d suggest they tell their employees that those being laid off are good people in a bad situation—they have worked hard and done what they were asked to do—but despite their best efforts, the company faces the undeniable realities of making very painful decisions about what Ford must do to restore competitiveness and profitability for the future. I would encourage Ford to reinforce with remaining employees how the company needs their dedication and best work now more than ever. I would also suggest that they show empathy for the remaining workers’ concerns by indicating an understanding that uncertain times can be unsettling. To help with that, management should commit to keeping the lines of communication open and by updating its employees on new developments—positive and negative—as they occur.”
Kathy Obert, chief executive, Edward Howard & Co., Cleveland


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