Ford Motor Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett knows the clock is already ticking on his tenure and intends to make a difference in his first 100 days.
Hackett, 62, who replaced Mark Fields as CEO last month, has begun with a mandate from Executive Chairman Bill Ford to speed up the automaker’s decision-making and wants to instill an increased focus on innovation.
“Every CEO that starts has a 100-day clock ticking. So I am working on a 100-day plan that is really coming along nicely,” Hackett told the Free Press.
His short-term goals include looking at revenue opportunities for Ford and making sure the company is getting an acceptable return on its investments.
In his first extensive interview since his appointment, Hackett also talked about his unique view of the technology and design necessary for the public to embrace self-driving cars, his passion for understanding how technology shapes the way people live and work, and how he hopes to change Ford’s corporate culture.
Hackett said he and Bill Ford want to “create a flatter structure so that it doesn’t feel the weight of hierarchy on every decision.”
Hackett is both an outgoing people person and a technology geek who likes to attend TED Talks, which are meccas for technology entrepreneurs and design trendsetters but are sometimes mocked as self-important displays of intellectualism.
“I’ve been going to TED for 30 years, which is an unusual record,” Hackett said.
He is respected for an inclusive management style and prefers to hold meetings with groups of people small enough that no more than two pizzas are required to feed them. His model for leadership was influenced in college while playing football for legendary University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler.
“The first initial thing you get from him is a very clear and dynamic leadership style that was based on integrity,” Hackett said of Schembechler. That included “this really strong view that you had to have this — you had to own the space called ‘integrity,’ even though we are all imperfect and you know people are going to make mistakes, but you can all constantly be in pursuit of this.”
Hackett and Bill Ford have already restructured Ford Motor’s top management team to give more authority to top Ford executives and set four goals for the company for Hackett’s first 100 days. In an effort to reach out to employees, Hackett has produced several videos titled “Hackett’s Huddle” to answer questions and explain his views.
Calling him ‘Jim’
Early in his career, Hackett left his job at Procter & Gamble in the 1980s to work for Grand Rapids furniture manufacturer Steelcase, in part because he didn’t like the culture there. At Ford, he wants employees to call him “Jim” and hopes to make working at Ford fun.
“The culture was a little too stiff for me [at Procter & Gamble], and when my wife told me you could call the CEO of Steelcase by his first name, I was amazed that you could do that,” Hackett said.
Fostering a fun, loose work environment doesn’t mean the intensity of working for a global automaker under pressure from Wall Street to boost its stock price will diminish. His four goals for the first 100 days are to:
1. Re-evaluate revenue opportunities: With US industry sales plateauing or falling, Hackett said Ford must look for new revenue opportunities and review areas where the company is not making money.
2. Evaluate the “fitness of the company”: This means trying to figure out the best, most efficient way to operate the business or making sure the best process is being followed to create products. “It’s actually finding ways to design things so that we don’t have redundancy and overlap,” Hackett said.
3. Re-evaluate capital deployment: Hackett wants to make sure Ford is getting an acceptable return on its investments.
4. Renew focus on innovation: Hackett wants to make sure the automaker is as focused as possible on becoming a leader on the development of autonomous vehicles and on emerging opportunities as a mobility service provider.
Hackett pointed to the company’s decision to exit Japan last year as an example of a smart decision to conserve money instead of spending it in a place where Ford had no hope of gaining significant market share.
“The good news is, we have plenty of capital. The sources of capital are not the problem. It’s the uses,” Hackett said. “You can exit things — it’s well-known, competitor’s have been doing that — and Ford has been on that already.”
George Galliers, an auto analyst for Evercore ISI who recently spent two days with Ford executives, said the company is looking at ways to make more money on small cars and appears to be considering a withdrawal from doing business in India — a move that would follow a decision last month by General Motors to stop selling vehicles in India.
“Given that Ford does not expect North American industry volume or pricing to get better from here, addressing less profitable, and in some cases, loss-making parts of the company, will be key to delivering higher earnings,” Galliers said.
DETROIT FREE PRESS/TNS