Ford of Europe

The CEO wanted to take Ford of Europe from break-even to growth with a clear strategy, tight teamwork and strong leadership.

The vision and ingenuity of Henry Ford, to supply affordable transportation for the working class family, revolutionised the automobile industry. Today, Ford Motor Company is a global company with a turnover in excess of $170 billion. However, past success is no guarantee for future viability and in its major markets, the US and Europe, Ford finds itself competing with low cost foreign competition, rapidly shifting consumer preferences and increasing regulation.

Nowhere is the competition more severe and the customer base more diverse than in Europe, where Ford of Europe employs over 55,000 people and sells automobiles throughout Europe, Western Russia, Turkey and the Middle East.

Taking over the reins of Ford of Europe in late 2003, new CEO Lewis Booth, a Ford veteran, inherited a declining market share and growing cost pressures. 2003 wound up with a significant operating loss. His first and most important task was to develop a break even operating plan, which he did, ending 2004 with a modest $114 million profit.

But what about the future?

With so much attention on day-to-day operations and short-term results, there was insufficient time for long-term strategic planning.

At the end of 2004, with costs in line and key problems fixed, it was time to think about the future and develop a 5-year strategic plan. Lewis Booth wanted a process that fully engaged the senior executive committee to build the future strategy themselves. “We know our business better than any outsiders, we just need a robust process and expert facilitation to keep us on task.”

The key issue: could Reconsulting effectively design and facilitate a process combining team alignment and strategic planning and come out with a robust tool to help drive the new strategy into the company?

After spending quality one-on-one time with members of the Executive Committee, developing a web-based strategy survey, and evaluating the team dynamics, Reconsulting developed a three day offsite. The offsite combined team alignment activities, leadership development, and a strategy development and deployment process for Ford of Europe. The strategy deployment process, based on the Hoshin Kanri process of goal deployment, allowed the senior team to articulate a 5-year forward strategy.

The development of shared strategic objectives improved the level of teamwork, trust and support. A process for monthly review of all strategic initiatives helps keep the plan in focus and moving forward.

While significant challenges remain in the competitive European automobile market, Ford of Europe is now more in control of their destiny and working together to make it happen.