Social operating mechanisms part 2 - Ford ~ Sounds + Food 'n' Retail

social engineering.jpgJust read an interview with Ford's ex-CEO Jacques Nasser on the training programs that were prevalent at that time (2000). He justified their need, by outlining the history of the car-industry between 1905 and now.

  • 1905-1920s - colonisation of car-companies: smaller replicas of car-factories in the US were being built abroad. Hardly any competition.
  • 1920s-1950s - nationalism: lots of countries were building their own national vehicles. Competition mostly on a regional level.
  • 1960s-1980s - regionalism: the rise of trading-blocks (NAFTA, EU, etc.) and as a response the functional/regional division of companies.
  • 1980+ - globalisation: global competitors, more markets, more divergence of consumers, more need for people/ideas/growth.

The situation at Ford
The result of the last period is that there are more Ford-people around the globe to manage, that more markets need to be served with different needs, and that the company that can generate economies of scale & scope, while being most consumer-orientated wins.

Two strategic priorities are at play here: consumers only see a part of the car, which means that the hidden qualities can be mass-produced; and consumers value those qualities most matched with their environment—e.g. in Brazil, so I read, roads are abysmal (if any Brazilian reads this, correct me), and good suspension is highly valued. In China, luxury models are mostly driven by chauffeurs, while the consumer sits in the back, hence he/she values luxury in that part of the car.

In this scenario, two types of qualities are valued with people: to understand the corporate qualities of Ford and make decisions that favour its mass-market strategies; and those that understand the local environment and can design car-offerings tailored to local needs.

Social operating mechanisms at Ford
Ford, at the time of the interview, had about 12 programs aimed at promoting these skills. The ones mentioned, included: Capstone, which is aimed at (24) executives; Executive partnering, aimed at (12) promising managers; Business leadership initiative, aimed at the whole organisation; and a weekly email-newsletter, called "Let's chat about business," also aimed at the whole organisation.

Methods + Aims were:
  • Team-building - to get people to work more closely together / develop a corporate culture
  • Teaching - to get people to understand the priorities at a corporate level, rather then just at a divisional/functional level
  • Projects - to get people to come up with problems plaguing their organisations at that time and develop creative solutions to them.
  • Shadowing - to develop leaders

Several thoughts going through my head at the moment. I am both uncertain how relevant this is to the SME-environment, and at the same time I do a lot of "social engineering" and can certainly think of a few cases in my past where a certain structure would have benefited the small teams I worked in. I'll probably write a third post about the SME-perspective at some point in the future.

My favourite way to picture "social engineering" however, is through designing processes that bring elements of the organisation together with customers and "raw-inputs" (new technologies, future employees, and partners, etc.). Maybe, I'll write about that at some point too.

Of course, I always appreciate the reader's perspective on this. Social programs at an SME-level, good for team-building or bad because it distracts from survival-priorities?

The picture is courtesy of


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