The Mind of a Business Leader … Alan Mulally’s mind map of One Ford

September 14, 2017

I remember former Ford CEO Alan Mulally being interviewed by Fortune magazine back in 2009. The interviewer caught a glimpse of his notebook and was intrigued. He asked if he could publish one page as a way of demonstrating the “systems thinking” of a leader, addressing the complexities and potential connectivity of a large corporation.

When Mulally took over as CEO in 2006, Ford was in tough shape. It had lost a whopping 25% of its market share since 1990. The company held a huge portfolio of brands including Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, and Volvo. But none of these brands was faring well, and each required major capital infusions to compete. Ford’s cycle time for the development of new automobiles lagged Japanese automakers by months. Adding to Mulally’s woes were labor costs as high as $76/hour within Ford’s unionized workforce, making the company’s operating margins uncompetitive at home and overseas.

Mulally’s Innovation Plan: One Ford

Mulally’s solution to restore a leadership position to the company was laid out in a plan he called ‘One Ford.’ While on its face the title may not scream ‘innovation,’ One Ford integrated all the components that are necessary in any major enterprise-wide innovation effort. This type of integration is sometimes called a ‘sponsor spine.’ It depends not only on visionary thinking and new products, but the ability of an entire enterprise to propel new thinking from team to team, function to function, and partner to partner.

Mulally’s One Ford innovation platform consisted of four main points: 1) bring all Ford employees together as a global team; 2) leverage Ford’s unique automotive knowledge and assets; 3) build cars and trucks that people wanted and valued; and 4) arrange the significant financing necessary to pay for it all. From any angle, this was a plan that required the company to fire on all cylinders – strategic vision, financial health, workforce competitiveness, and product development. No small task.

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