Could Ford Have Dodged the F-150 Fiasco?

A fire at a key supplier has created a blaze of aggravation for the iconic automaker, Ford Motor Company. Ford made international headlines this week as the company announced a complete production shutdown of the bestselling vehicle in America, the F-150, due to a lack of mission-critical parts from a single supplier. As thousands of employees were laid off and the stock price sank, executives scrambled to reassure customers, dealers and shareholders that the company remains on solid ground. Several days have passed, and no timetable exists for resuming production of one of the world’s most profitable vehicles.

Yet Ford’s migraine-inducing week could have been completely avoided.

In the 1990’s, Ford borrowed Toyota’s revolutionary “just in time” production system that drove efficiency, reduced costs, increased quality, eliminated waste, and minimized overhead. This approach, while brilliant at the time, has not enjoyed material reinvention over the last couple decades. As success accrued, it was easy to leave the non-broken systems to atrophy. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the saying goes.

Until it breaks, of course.

Instead of proactively reinventing faulty methods (in this case, a single point of failure), the company continued on cruise control until this week’s screeching halt. Now, taskforces and committee meetings will generate fresh approaches; had they adopted this approach six months (or six years) ago, they could have dodged this disaster altogether.

Reinvention must be an ongoing and consistent process, not a once-per-decade initiative. Rather than waiting for tragedy to strike, we must reinvent early and often, ideally from a position of strength. If we regularly challenge assumptions, reimagine possibilities, and defy traditions, we can avoid the trap of outdated systems or approaches catching ablaze.

Ford Motor Company, an organization both deeply admired and respected, continues to push the boundaries of innovation. So, if a reinvention faux pas can happen to this highly imaginative company, it can impact all of us as well. Never wait for adversity. Instead, carefully examine the procedures, processes, and perspectives of your business to discover areas in need of reinvention.

Ford will undoubtedly recover and remedy the challenge. Let’s learn from their struggle and prioritize our own reinvention efforts to fuel sustainable prosperity.

Reimagine our approach, and the results will shift into high gear.