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Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company from 2006 to 2014, pulled off one of the most agile, culturally transformative and peer-powered turnarounds in corporate history. It was captured in Bryce G. Hoffman’s book, American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company. It was all based around his “Working Together” Leadership & Management System, a rich example of a peer-powered culture of agility and the One Advantage at work.
I had the opportunity to see it in action before it was implemented at Ford when Alan was at Boeing. I ran the aerospace division of a British public company and formed a strategic alliance with the Boeing Connexion unit of the commercial airplane division of Boeing, of which Alan was president and CEO.
All of the Forum members were wrestling with issues that were holding back the profitability and growth of their organizations, and the discussion that afternoon revealed how similar the agility problems and solutions were between Alan, as CEO of a large company and the smaller company CEOs.
Alan eventually used a flipchart to sketch out the elements of the “Working Together” Leadership & Management System, pointing out its alignment with an agile operating system. The conversation got deep into the challenge of how to incorporate agility and Alan’s management system into organizations.
Alan Mulally knew at Boeing and at Ford that there is only one thing that future-proofs a business with the agility required: working together. His “Working Together” Leadership & Management System is the engine room of agility, and its principles and practices are inclusive, putting people first, and respect. A clear vision and strategy are, of course, a part of this approach, and everyone understands the plan. But the approach also defines a culture of skilled and motivated teams with a “find-a-way” attitude of agility in pursuit of a win-win-win equation of profitable growth for all the stakeholders and the greater good.
Alan Mulally knew that his “Working Together” approach had an inbuilt agile operating system within it. Central to it was the cadence of the weekly business plan review (BPR) meeting of his entire leadership team, triaging their whole agenda of challenges, problems, opportunities, and solutions, globally and locally. Every leader, every issue, every week, no matter what.
This might be the biggest and best business example ever of a Weekly Scrum Meeting!
Agile leaders know that a matrix of agile meetings is at the heart of a peer-powered culture of agility. It is the traction control system, providing a weekly opportunity to adjust and adapt your triage in synch with the whole team to stay on the same page and keep the chaos organized. Critical to that is the concept of scrum meetings on a daily and weekly basis, which helped plan, prioritize, uncover obstacles, make course corrections, and otherwise keep the process flowing with agility.
The only reliable competitive advantage these days is agility with a peer-powered culture, which is what Mulally’s “Working Together” Leadership & Management System is about. A leader fostering “Working Together” must serve as the chief agility officer, holding themselves and their team responsible for following the processes and behaviors that are endemic to this approach. Doing so not only results in identifying and solving issues and improving processes, it adds shareholder value and serves the greater good. This management system works because it is clear, has reliable processes built in, is inclusive, and allows a company to be nimble and adaptive.
At Boeing and Ford, Alan Mulally was a case study of being an agile leadership presence. Progressively during the course of his career with Boeing, he developed skill with and became a model of the five key attributes of agility. The complexity of engineering and project management involved left him no choice. His agile leadership presence positively impacted the trajectory of every program and business he was involved in, and the first day he walked through the door, Ford’s trajectory was also inflected positively.
Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company from 2006 to 2014, pulled off one of the most agile, culturally transformative and peer-powered turnarounds in corporate history. Read more about that in our eBook:
My Co-authors Jason Richmond, Leo Bottary and I explore how you can introduce a peer-powered culture of agility into your organization. It is your one and only competitive advantage which has any permanence these days. Everything else is increasingly temporary, increasingly quickly, probably bigger, faster and sooner than you think.
That is what Alan Mulally did at Ford. See more References, Resources & Graphics below about Alan Mulally's "Working Together" Leadership & Management System (all provided with permission).
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