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Ford to staff: Ax useless meetings

CEO says company doesn't have time for endless gatherings as it struggles to right ship.

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

DEARBORN -- Interminable meetings are the bane of most large corporations, but Ford Motor Co. Chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr. says enough is enough.

In a memorandum sent to all corporate officers and senior executives last Friday, Bill Ford said he is moving to limit the number of high-level meetings held each month in Dearborn and restricting participation to those managers whose presence is absolutely necessary.

"We must evaluate our schedules to make certain we and our teams are focused on our most essential business objectives while letting go the tasks that have no bearing on our company's success," Bill Ford said in the memo, a copy of which was provided to The Detroit News. "Likewise, you and your teams should look at how your time is spent. Meetings that are held for the infamous 'management entertainment,' attended out of fear of not being seen, or scheduled simply because 'that's the way we've always done it' need to go. Meetings worth our time are those that help us move quicker, break through bureaucracy and drive decision-making to the appropriate levels throughout the organization.."

Each month, Ford sets aside a week for meetings aimed at addressing issues of global concern. Over time, these meetings have snowballed, both in terms of frequency and participation. In an effort to speed up decision making and drive down accountability to lower levels of the corporation, Bill Ford is eliminating several regularly scheduled meetings. He is also limiting participation.

Professor John Tropman, an expert on management organization at the University of Michigan and the author of Making Meetings Work, said Bill Ford's decision seems like a step in the right direction.

"My research shows that most organizations meet about twice as often as necessary," Tropman said. "Ford is notorious for show-and-tell meetings. It's basically preening and presenting."

Sources in the company say the change also reflects Bill Ford's growing involvement in the day-to-day operations of the company.

Following the departure of Jim Padilla, the company's former president and chief operating officer, Bill Ford has assumed direct control over the company, managing its operations through an executive committee that he chairs. The move comes as the company struggles to stop its loss of market share in North America and restore its domestic automotive operations to profitability.

"I will attend more of these meetings than in the past," Bill Ford said in the memo. "These are difficult times and we have much work to do but I remain confident in our ability to rebound."
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