Keep boss in the loop

A record number of vehicles are being launched across the North American industry this year. The big numbers that automakers cite are impressive.

For example, Ford says it is debuting 16 vehicles in North America in 2014.

But bringing out so many new models in a short span can lead to trouble.

Ford, which has had some glitchy launches in the past couple of years, is testing a new formula for rooting out problems before they turn into disasters. The company is getting its topmost executives involved early.

Sounds unremarkable, but it's actually a big deal.

Midlevel managers and engineers may become aware of a quality issue early; but if senior decision-makers -- say, the head of product development or manufacturing or purchasing or even the COO or CEO -- are not involved until midway or even late in the development process, it does little good.

That's because the kinds of decisions that need to be made, such as changing the technology or delaying the project, are senior leadership decisions, not midmanagement moves.

The idea -- and it's a good one -- is to deal with important issues that might otherwise languish without high-level intervention.

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