Ford: "If they will buy it, we will build it"

Here are some great excerpts from a speech by Bill Ford, Chairman and CEO, Ford Motor Company, at the Ford Motor Company Business Review on January 23, 2006. Ford (the person) is saying the right things; it remains to be seen whether Ford (the company) can execute on this vision.

You can't cut your way to success.

The full story is about what Ford stands for - and what we will no longer stand for. Ford Motor Company stands for a far-sighted commitment to growth. We stand for a renewed focus on the customer. We stand for boundless innovation in every aspect of our business - from design, to safety, to fuel-efficiency, to efficiency on the factory floor. We stand for the distinctive look, feel, quality, toughness, boldness and fun of automobiles that are unmistakably Ford. And we stand for the hard-working men and women of Ford Motor Company and their families. Business plans change as the world changes - but these principles will never change.

Here is what we will not stand for: incremental change, avoiding risk, thinking short-term, blocking innovation, tying our people's hands, defending procedures that don't make sense, and selling what we have instead of what the customer wants. In short, we will not stand for business as usual.

And later...

True customer-focus means that our business decisions originate from our knowledge of what the customer wants, both today and tomorrow. "If you build it, they will buy it" - that's business as usual, and that's wrong. "If they will buy it, we will build it" is right - and we're going back to it.

And later...

My great-grandfather once said of the first car he ever built: "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse."

At Ford, we're going to figure out what people want before they even know it - and then we're going to give it to them. It's where we began and it's where we must go.

Getting scientists and engineers together doesn't sound so complicated. Getting management off their backs doesn't sound so revolutionary. Why didn't we do this before? Because we didn't have to. The system in place was good enough for getting other products out at that time.

Now the question is: what other bureaucratic walls have we built that are holding us back?

I like to tell school kids about a time a hundred years ago when my great-grandfather Henry Ford built his first car in a shed behind his house.

At the end, after he was finished, he realized there was one thing he hadn't anticipated. The car was too big to go out the door. He actually had to knock down a wall to drive it out.

We intend to remind people every day that if you want to build something that's never been built before, you may have to knock down a wall or two.

This speech is not on the Ford website (at least I couldn't find it) but the full text is available here.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.


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