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US:Bill Ford: Get on board or leave

Bill Ford: Get on board or leave

CEO tells employees who have adopted a skeptical stance toward turnaround plans to join him or quit.

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. Chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr. said Monday that employees who do not believe his plan for reinventing the company is sincere should take a hike.

"Anyone who thinks or attempts to convince you that it's business as usual at Ford is wrong and would best serve us all by pursuing their interests elsewhere," Bill Ford said in an audio message e-mailed to workers Monday afternoon. "Our heritage of innovation must be reclaimed and renewed or the greatness of our company will become part of our past. It's that simple."

Bill Ford has said he wants to marshal all of the automaker's manpower and resources to transform it into a more innovative and environmentally friendly company. But he may be encountering some skepticism from employees who have been through numerous restructuring efforts.

"A guy like Bill Ford, with his temperament, is not going to say this without it being a very real issue," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "They are going through a major restructuring, and they need to have everybody on board."

Bill Ford's comments come as the automaker prepares to eliminate 4,000 salaried positions by the end of March.

In the accompanying e-mail, Bill Ford told employees Monday that the message was the first in what will be a series of less formal communications he has dubbed "Ford on Ford."

These dispatches from the top underscore what industry observers such as Cole see as a renewed attempt by the great-grandson of Henry Ford to assert control over the company that bears his name.

In recent months, several executives have left the company and others have been promoted.

The most significant of those was Bill Ford's decision to tap Mark Fields to replace Phil Martens as head of Ford's Americas division. In an internal message to employees following his promotion, Fields called on staff members to fall in line behind Bill Ford's banner of innovation.

"Getting the right people working together as a team will be one of my first priorities," Fields said. "The most successful businesses in the world have a group of individuals that knows how to create as a team."

The biggest challenge to Ford's makeover may be the automaker's hide-bound bureaucracy. Bill Ford on Monday announced a new Web-based system that allows employees to submit ideas directly to his senior management team.

"Sometimes our bureaucracy can be ponderous and not always receptive to a different approach," Bill Ford said.

More than just a clearer conduit for communicating ideas to the top, the new Web site forces employees to think their ideas through before submitting them.

It asks employees to classify their ideas as technical innovations, business improvements, operational efficiencies, competitive advantages or ways to improve relations between the company and its workers, suppliers or customers.

The Web site also asks employees to rate the potential impact of their ideas. Are they on par with the sort of innovations that made Ford great? Will they change the lives of consumers? Will they open new markets? Will they lead to industry-firsts or improve Ford's competitive position? Ultimately, employees reach a screen that lets them type in an outline of their proposal or submit a previously prepared document.

"The bureaucracy at any company is a tremendous challenge," Cole said. "You want to shake it to the roots in a period like this. That's what he's saying: 'We're going to change.' "

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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