PowerPoint Management: Ford’s secret to recent success

Punch line: Ford’s CEO Ford’s CEO has an obsession with Power Point … and it works !

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Excerpted from WSJ: Ford’s Renaissance Man, Feb 26., 2010

Alan Mulally, Ford’s president and chief executive officer, is exuding ebullience over, of all things, PowerPoint slides.

“How cool is that?” asks Mr. Mulally, pointing to slides showing rows and rows of numbers … relishing a slide of color-coded charts depicting the status of key projects that looks like a scrambled Monopoly board … and one that shows overlapping ovals that depict the configuration of corporate alliances in the global car business.

Mr. Mulally and his team of 16 top executives review 300 such slides in each weekly BPR, or Business Planning Review, which lasts just over two hours.

“If you aren’t comfortable with that you might be more comfortable leaving the company.”

To a visitor, these slide shows sound mind-numbing. But the CEO is excited about them for good reason.

Ford’s recent success is already amazing considering the prior half-dozen years of near-fatal decline. If it continues, Mr. Mulally will be credited with one of the great turnarounds in corporate history. His method has been to simplify, relentlessly and systematically, a business that had grown way too complicated and costly to be managed effectively.

“Improve Focus, Simplify Operations,” reads one of Mr. Mulally’s many charts, which he repeats like a sacred mantra.

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Soon after his arrival Ford began shedding brands—Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin among them—that the company couldn’t afford to support. Volvo will be next to go.

In the process, Ford cut its number of global platforms, or chassis, to eight from more than 20, and the number of nameplates to 25 from 97.

Ford is methodically implementing the “One Ford” strategy of developing cars in a single region (say Europe, or North America) and selling them globally, instead of developing slightly different cars in each region at enormous extra cost.

“It’s back to Henry Ford’s original vision, isn’t that cool?” gushes Mr. Mulally, reaching for—you guessed it—yet another chart. “It’s all about producing products people want,” he adds. “Our goal is PGA – Profitable Growth for All.”

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