American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company

| Author : Bryce G. Hoffman, 2012

What’s It All About?

Ford Motor Company will always be dear to me, since I spent four years at a plant in Talbotville, Ontario that manufactured the Crown Victoria and the Grand Marquis. Even if you don’t have personal Ford experience like me, you’ve likely heard of them along with General Motors and Chrysler. Together, these “big three” were the power trip of manufacturing. However, there’s a key difference between Ford and the others. In the 2008 crisis, GM and Chrysler both went through bailouts, while Ford came out stronger than ever.

What was the difference that helped Ford weather this crisis better than its competitors? Bryce G. Hoffman explores this question in his book American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company. It delves into the story of Ford CEO Alan Mullaly, who used his charismatic leadership and industry experience to take Ford from the brink of bankruptcy to remaining one of the most successful automobile manufacturers in the world.

American Icon is a fast and compelling read, written in a true crime fashion that kept me engaged and turning the pages until the end.

Favorite Quote

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

Biggest Takeaway

When a company doesn’t share Ford’s success, it often comes down to the power of ego. In a time of crisis or growth, one of the greatest roadblocks is an inability to move away from old status and beliefs. As American Icon discusses, Ford was able to weather their financial crisis by bringing in an outsider like Mullaly, who would not get lost in the company’s long and rich history. Mullaly was able to focus on clear objectives, rather than get bogged down by ego or previously held beliefs, which is what made him such an effective leader.

This all goes to show that as leaders, we still need someone to hold us accountable for our actions. Through accountability, we get better leadership and more productive results!

Bonus Information

In manufacturing or any type of lean environment, building to demand is a concept that seems simple and fundamental. However, Alan Mulally was able to save and revolutionize Ford by focusing on simplifying models, laser-focusing on quality, and listening to customers. He shifted Ford’s goals from building products to stay busy to creating in-demand products, which played a big role in the company’s success. It sounds simple to read in American Icon, yet not all manufacturing companies can hold true to this concept.

Reviewed by: Trevor Blondeel,  July 25, 2023

At Manufacturing Greatness, Trevor Blondeel works with manufacturers to connect the top to the shop. If you’re ready to improve your own organization, contact Trevor to learn how Manufacturing Greatness can help you build stronger leaders and develop a dynamic, high-performing workplace.