By Bryce Hoffman
We learned a lot in this week’s Dale Carnegie course, but nothing more important than the first nine of Mr. Carnegie’s Human Relations Principles.
As I we went over these principles, I could think of several examples from Ford Motor Company’s turnaround to illustrate them. That was enough to convince me of their efficacy.
Take the first one: “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.”
According to Mr. Carnegie, most people are entirely unaware of their own shortcomings and are adept at rationalizing their mistakes. Given that, he says there is little value in pointing them out. He writes:
The resentment that criticism engenders can demoralize employees, family members and friends, and still not correct the situation that has been condemned.
One person who clearly understands this is Ford’s CEO, Alan Mulally.
As I describe in my book, American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company, most observers inside and outside Dearborn expected him to sack many — if not all — of the automaker’s top managers when he was brought in by Bill Ford Jr. to turn the company around. But he didn’t. Nor did he blame them for Ford’s many woes.
I can still remember my first sit-down interview with Mulally. It came just six weeks after he was hired in September 2006. I asked him when heads were going to start rolling, when he was going to start bringing in his own people. He just smiled and said, “Ford has all the talent inside the company it needs to save itself.”
What Ford needed, Mulally said, was someone to get them to stop fighting with each other and focused on saving the company. And that’s exactly what he did.
A big part of that was his now-famous Thursday morning business plan review, or BPR, meetings. As I describe in American Icon:
This would not be a forum for discussion or debate. Any issues that required more in-depth consideration … would be taken up in a “special attention review,” or SAR, immediately following the BPR. The idea was to keep the main meeting focused on the big picture. And Mulally stressed that, when there was discussion and debate in the SAR, it would be based on business realities, not politics or personality. That was the old Ford, he said. The new Ford was all about the numbers.
“ The data sets you free,” he said with a smile.
Free from the vicious cycle of blaming and explaining that had stymied all previous efforts to turn the company around.
And it worked.
Ford today is a model of teamwork, and that teamwork — that spirit of what Mulally likes to call “working together” — has been the engine of its recent success.
And what is true for Ford is true for your company, your organization, your life.
To quote Alan Mulally, “Working together works. It always works.”
To quote Dale Carnegie, “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.”