Just Make a Decision Already: Ford CEO Wants Automaker to Pick Up the Pace

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
just make a decision already ford ceo wants automaker to pick up the pace

While he’s only been in the big chair for little over a month, Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Hackett has already pinned down a serious problem in need of immediate change. Decision making. Or, more specifically, the need to get the lead out when rapidly changing market trends threaten company profit.

The former chairman of Ford Smart Mobility LLC, who replaced an ousted Mark Fields in late May, was brought in to guide the Blue Oval through a “transformative period” in the industry. One way he might do this is to borrow an idea from the NBA.

Speaking to analysts on Friday, Hackett raised the idea of enacting a decision-making “shot clock” to prevent executives from holding up the game. Under Fields, it seemed the automaker was often playing catch-up to its domestic and foreign rivals.

First, the decision to return the smaller Ranger pickup to North America after a years-long absence was taken only after General Motors found success with its newly midsized Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. At the same time, longstanding models like the Toyota Tacoma have enjoyed boffo sales. Expect the Ranger to appear in 2019.

Even as automakers were busy pursuing affordable, long-range electric cars, Ford waited until the Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3 were well along the pipeline before deciding that 100 miles of range maybe wasn’t good enough. As a result, the company’s planned electric crossover won’t arrive until 2020.

This kind of planning needs to stop, Hackett implied. In his first 100 days in the job, the CEO wants the company to make decisions and get plans rolling faster than before.

“Mr. Hackett intends to unpack and accelerate Ford’s pre-existing long-term strategy,” stated JP Morgan’s Ryan Brinkman following the meeting.

It seems the widespread shuffling of top execs following Hackett’s appointment could help in this regard. Citi analyst Itay Michaeli said, “Mr. Hackett acknowledged that past slow decision-making — sometimes caused by confusion over ‘who is in charge’ within newer efforts — has been an issue at Ford.”

Cutting back on administrative costs will be another focus for Hackett. The company’s oversized human resources department, as well as others, found itself in the crosshairs even before Hackett took on the top job. Shortly before Fields’ departure, the company announced sweeping reductions to its white-collar workforce — a measure Hackett must now see through.

While he didn’t state a solution, Hackett also mentioned the need to shore up the company’s weak small car sales.

[Sources: CNBC, Fox Business] [Image: Ford Motor Company]

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3 of 24 comments
  • NeilM NeilM on Jul 02, 2017

    The flip side of making such decisions more quickly is the need to understand and tolerate, even encourage, the inevitable errors that will result.

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jul 02, 2017

      You're assuming the extended decision-making process prevents or reduces errors. I wouldn't make that assumption. In a large bureaucracy, verious departments serve as fiefdoms where a specific way of doing business is ingrained. It may well be that those fiefdoms are dragging their feet until they get their way, which may not be the best way to get the job done. An example of that is military procurement when the new AR15-based rifle was chosen. A department steeped in the traditions of the bolt action rifle insisted on additions that did nothing for performance but added weight, and in a couple cases interfered with future enhancements (a traditional pop-up sight where the scope rail was intended). No doubt a bureacracy at Ford has its own way of doing things in many areas, getting in the way of, or trying to change advanced design work, and foot-dragging in the approval process until they get their way.

  • Mikeg216 Mikeg216 on Jul 02, 2017

    Can I have a new excursion now? With a ten speed and a 6.2? Maybe even the power stroke?

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