Ford CEO Jac Nasser is becoming the George Steinbrenner of autodom.
Steinbrenner has shown a willingness to make the New York Yankees baseball team a winner by spending wildly in the free agent market; Nasser is trying to build a championship team at Ford by hiring talent from other automakers and from outside the industry.
Nasser's effort to reshape Ford has brought the single greatest influx of outside talent to Ford since Henry Ford II hired the Whiz Kids after World War II. There are some terrific opportunities to improve Ford's executive lineup, but there also are some tremendous risks.
1. Morale. Any time outsiders are hired into top positions over insiders, there's going to be a certain amount of fear and loathing. Ford's efforts to cull midlevel underachievers and last fall's executive suite housecleaning in which seven vice presidents left the company have been unsettling to Ford veterans.
2. Culture. Improving corporate culture is a swell goal, and Nasser's plan to make Ford a consumer company that sells cars rather than an automaker that deals with consumers sounds good. There certainly is room for improvement among some of the industry's traditional hang-ups. But the auto business is still unique in many ways. It's important to keep that in mind.
3. Compatibility. Teamwork is still one of the most important elements of any business. Hiring execs who have been all-stars elsewhere doesn't ensure that they'll perform as well on your team. Or that they'll even be able to get along in the dugout.
Jac Nasser and his brain trust obviously have a vision for Ford, and that's very good. But they must remember that championship dynasties are built on stability. And a good farm system.