Portrait in contrast: Corporate Redeemer / Charity Savior

I recently finished a book about Ford Motors and the “epic”  comeback from the brink of ruin.  The book:  American Icon, Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman.  Here’s the description from Amazon:

Ford, Alan Mulally

Ford, Alan Mulally

“At the end of 2008, Ford Motor Company was just months away from running out of cash. With the auto industry careening toward ruin, Congress offered all three Detroit automakers a bailout. General Motors and Chrysler grabbed the taxpayer lifeline, but Ford decided to save itself. Under the leadership of charismatic CEO Alan Mulally, Ford had already put together a bold plan to unify its divided global operations, transform its lackluster product lineup, and overcome a dys­functional culture of infighting, backstabbing, and excuses. It was an extraordinary risk, but it was the only way the Ford family—America’s last great industrial dynasty—could hold on to their company.

Mulally and his team pulled off one of the great­est comebacks in business history. As the rest of Detroit collapsed, Ford went from the brink of bankruptcy to being the most profitable automaker in the world.

American Icon is the compelling, behind-the-scenes account of that epic turnaround. On the verge of collapse, Ford went outside the auto industry and recruited Mulally—the man who had already saved Boeing from the deathblow of 9/11—to lead a sweeping restructuring of a company that had been unable to overcome decades of mismanage­ment and denial. Mulally applied the principles he developed at Boeing to streamline Ford’s inefficient operations, force its fractious executives to work together as a team, and spark a product renaissance in Dearborn. He also convinced the United Auto Workers to join his fight for the soul of American manufacturing.”

I was recommended this book by someone I had met from Trek bicycles.  The book sucked me in immediately.  I highly recommend it as well.  Interestingly, I recall from the 80’s much acclaim devoted to Lee Iacocca who also served as president for Ford but it credited most for his leadership at Chrysler.  Very interesting reading as well.  I recall business minded folk idolizing Iacocca. It’s fortunate he is not remembered for the Ford Pinto (shudder) which was one of Ford’s greatest embarrassments, in my opinion.  While Iacocca is touted as one of the greatest business leaders of all time, Mulally is aggrandized in much the same way it seems.  However, his leadership saved a dying giant and made some amazing changes to the toxic corporate culture that was suffocating the blue oval.  If the book is a genuine account of what he did then I would be honored to have served under his leadership.  Perhaps more interesting than Alan though, is the peek inside the Auto industry in Detroit. The amont of money to run such an operation…mind blown.  A deeper insight into the government bailouts…still mad about it but Ford was a shining star that I only wish Wall Street had the integrity to pull off what Ford did.  The story is riveting and well worth your time.  Go read it!  (An equally interesting read you’ll find here:  Mulally Keeps Truckin, but I recommend you read the book as it gives valuable insight as to why this article is really that interesting)

In contrast, I also recently came across an interesting TED talk about charity.

 The contrast between the Ford / Auto industry story and the way we think about charity is quite drastic.  Dan Pallotta is spot-on about the broken relationship we (not just Americans, the whole world) have with charities. What I found particularly interesting is the vilification of charities for spending to make big things happen.  One case was demonstrated when investments were made in Recruitment and Customer Service.  This was labelled as excessive overhead and almost overnight shut down a successful charity.  Having had a long career in customer service, it’s disheartening to hear of such things.  Lip service is given to those in customer service how important they are yet compensation for these fine people are traditionally low.  I hear all too often that people will repeat business with those whom they’ve had a great customer experience, even if it costs more.  The paradigm of the service representative at the bottom of the food chain needs an overhaul.   Things need to change.


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