Good day. I'd like to start my talk with a story. I tell a humorous story at the beginning not to lighten you up. It's for me. This way, if I hear you laugh later in the serious part of my remarks I can assume you are just late getting the punch line.
This story is true. It takes place at the lowest point of the Korean War. The Marines were surrounded, and Marine Corps General Chesty Puller [I'm not making that name up] ... came out to address his troops.
General Puller said, "Men, there are 100,0000 enemy coming at us from the North and East. There are 100,000 more coming at us from the West, and 100,000 attacking us from the South."
The General then paused, rubbed his hands together and gave out a broad smile. He said, "Men, I really don't see how they're going to get away from us this time."
I like that story because it shows determination in the face of overwhelming difficulties. That seems appropriate right now, as we have no shortage of problems coming at us from every side. From global logistics with heightened security to an economic downturn and quality and launch problems we thought we had vanquished a decade ago.
Yet I also like that story because General Puller didn't realize he was a half-century ahead of his time. Today, dropping forces into the thick of things is a strategy for success. The Joint Chiefs call this new paradigm "Asymmetrical Warfare."
Asymmetrical Warfare is a recognition that the world has changed. The old thinking that super powers could battle over a well-defined Maginot or Siegfried Line, is obsolete.
As we saw in Afghanistan, there is no front line, no linear strategy that works. Challenges can arise from any quarter, often when and where we least expect it.
What's that got to do with e-commerce and manufacturing quality?
Actually a lot. "Asymmetric Warfare," in many respects is perfectly analogous to the challenges manufacturing faces in this new age.
Not long ago, our manufacturing world was symmetrical, or, at least, it appeared to be.
We could easily differentiate a problem from the background noise. We had sequential steps to address problems in a linear fashion. And most of all, we had a quasi-military chain of command to mandate action.
Managers and Executive engineers were the officers. They had the knowledge, made all decisions, and gave marching orders for the foot soldiers to carry out. For an engineering culture, which thrives on creating order out of chaos, it was the best of all possible worlds.
Then came the information age, and nothing would ever be as linear nor as hierarchical again.
Even the worldwide web itself, the source of so much positive interaction, is totally asymmetric. It has no leadership, no hierarchy, and no enforceable standards.
The web is a tremendous source of real-time information, yet it is an equally prolific outlet for misinformation. There's simply no way of knowing the validity of any information, nor if the sender is a PhD in Physics or a mischievous 12-year-old named Jacob.
Yet despite its disorder, or perhaps because of it, the information age involved and elevated the individual.
No person is further away than a keyboard from the best thinking, of the best minds, from anywhere on earth. No one is further away from the worst thinking, either, but that's another issue.
Asymmetrical and accessible information has redefined knowledge itself.
Knowledge was, and always will be, power. Yet in the past you acquired and horded it as an expert, parceling it out in small measures, at a price, of course.
In our asymmetrical age, knowledge is more like electricity itself, most useful when it is free flowing and accessible to all.
Good news? In most respects, you bet.
It has allowed every employee and supplier to become knowledgeable-contributors and full participants in virtually every decision making process.
Cross-functional teams have become ubiquitous. Productivity skyrocketed for more than a decade, the longest era of unchecked economic growth in American history.
In order to fully leverage the new knowledge workers' contribution, organizations re-engineered themselves to become, if not egalitarian, certainly inclusive.
At Ford, for example, a few years ago we went through the largest global reorganization of any company in peacetime history.
Ford 2000's purpose was to empower every employee, to engage everyone in the decisions that impact his and her work life. We placed all employees in matrix environments where they served several teams at once. And we flattened out our corporate hierarchy, forcing decision making down throughout the ranks.
We even dropped the term "span of control" in favor of "span of empowerment."
So the good news is that every employee is a decision maker.
And the bad news is that every employee is a decision maker.
That's not actually bad news, but it can produce bad results if we can't rapidly and radically adapt to asymmetric realities.
For its no longer a matter of giving the troops marching orders and expecting they will dutifully trudge off in the same direction.
Today, every employee must be a volunteer. He and she must be enlisted, convinced, and committed.
When General Dwight D. Eisenhower became President, he realized the difference between an old-style disciplined military and working with self-determined individuals.
Eisenhower said, "As President, you sit at a big desk with a lot of buttons. But you soon realize the buttons aren't connected to anything. If you want to get anything done, you have to come out from behind the desk and convince someone."
Achieving commitment rather than mere compliance is a radical change. And it's difficult for leaders to let go of absolute control, and learn to trust the judgment of their team members.
It reminds me of Shannon Lucid, the record-setting American astronaut, who spent several months on the Mir space station with two Russian cosmonauts. She said that when the cosmonauts would leave the station for a space walk, they would tell her -- "You're in charge, but don't touch the controls."
Somehow I don't think they had the concept of empowerment down pat.
If we're going to achieve the benefits of having our people in charge, then management has to let go of the controls.
Asymmetrical Quality places all the emphasis on the men and women on the ground. It says mandates are meaningless. Each individual armed with unprecedented information and training, now makes vital decisions on the spot.
Difficulty is that we're not just convincing them to achieve quality. Heck, by itself that would be as easy as selling them on "motherhood."
No, we're also urging them to contain costs, to be customer responsive, to be environmentally positive, to innovate, and at the same time to dramatically increase their productivity.
In a confusion of priorities, individuals make wrong decisions. And our quality has suffered. To paraphrase Pogo, "I have seen the enemy, and it is us."
How can we achieve quality in an asymmetric culture? Let me give you some of the strategies we are attempting to employ at Ford.
First, we must take a holistic approach. Asymmetrical Quality requires that every employee understand the full, and broad, implications of quality commitment.
To achieve that, Ford has initiated an unprecedented communications effort in which every U.S. employee with a computer, which is the vast majority of our people, receives regular reports on the state of the company, on customer satisfaction, profits, everything that a decision maker should know to make the right choices.
We're involved in an endless cascade of information, where everyone is told not only how his or her department is doing, but how our company is doing -- victories we've achieved, challenges we face, and what the competition looks like up close.
Managers go through an even more intense learning process, which takes our people out of the comfortable, familiar envelope of one's specialty to cross all departmental lines and interact with everyone.
A holistic approach means having a single, over-arching and understandable strategy.
At Ford, we incorporate everything we do in manufacturing quality into the Ford Production System. It's actually an amalgam of everything we've learned and applied at Ford in quality over the past twenty years. It incorporates ISO 9001, Ford's Q-1, Total Quality Management, and a wide array of quality metrics and milestone measurements.
Essential to asymmetric is trust in the employee's judgment. If an employee sees the big picture, has the facts, then he and she can make the right decisions independently. It's like the young soldier who said he wouldn't fight.
"That's your decision," the General said. "We'll just give you a gun, put you on the front line. Then when they attack, you can make your own decision."
Second, in an asymmetric world, you must be able to react robustly to quality problems where they develop. You need rapid response capabilities.
You need to concentrate attention on the hottest spots, not just have a generalized approach.
At Ford, we are developing a highly trained, commando force that is more than 2,000 strong. We train them in an intensive three-month Six Sigma course to become our black belts, and they will not only be our practitioners, but will teach our green belts.
We believe Six Sigma is the right approach to creating a genuine customer-driven quality learning culture, and nothing less is equal to the new challenge.
Six Sigma was employed in most companies as a means of gaining cost efficiency. At Ford, every Six Sigma target is defined entirely by careful measurement of what the customer sees as most valuable right now.
When customer needs shift, so do our targets. It's asymmetric, and responsive. Most quality programs, for example, take three to four years to show results. Six Sigma used a concentrated, virtually storm trooper approach, which produces results in months... not years.
So we're redefining ourselves as a company of decision makers. Giving
every employee and supplier the facts, Ford Production System tools, and rapid response in Customer-Driven Six Sigma.
The third essential to asymmetric quality is realizing that every one of your approaches must be flexible, and instantly adaptable.
To be successful in an environment where challenges crop up everywhere and from anywhere, you have to accept the possibility of uncertainty, and be ready for surprises and ambiguities. Any part of an asymmetric world that is fixed and inflexible is secondary to one that can respond and change.
Ford Production System is not absolute order, but a set of tools to be used as the immediate situation dictates to achieve outstanding and consistent outcomes. Every employee must understand the broad objectives so well as to be able to respond when necessary, as necessary.
In all of this, there is a fourth challenge of an asymmetric world. In many ways it is more prevalent, and more pervasive, than any other aspect of our time. I'm talking about the expectation of speed.
By eliminating the impediments to information flow, we've increased the pace of change exponentially. The ability to access, store, calculate, and share in nanoseconds what once took thousands of researchers years to accomplish, has radically accelerated the learning curve.
Knowledge builds on knowledge at an ever-increasing rate. In fact, the total store of accumulated human knowledge in every field is actually doubling every three to seven years now.
Companies everywhere are attempting to respond. Many books right now talk about the "virtual corporation." Virtual companies, like virtual reality, become anything the consumer wants it to be, at any given moment, in any milieu.
In his latest book, Bill Gates said that this new decade is all about velocity. It's about "how quickly business itself will be transacted." In fact, Gates said, "When the increase in velocity is great enough, the very nature of business changes."
Agility, responsiveness, flexibility, and robustness, which is often a synonym for "speed," are the watch words. That's the new reality of our asymmetric age-- a world without barriers that has opened up roads without speed limits.
Yet in the past few months, it has become all too apparent, that connection without controls, flow without monitors -- our much promoted "world without walls" -- can be devastating.
A river without dams certainly increases flow. It also produces floods. It brings everything down stream faster, which is enabling, but washes away a lot more, like topsoil, barns and contented cows. That's disabling.
A strong case can, in fact, "must," be made for strategically positioned dams, barriers, check points, and gates that assure a sustained, yet high quality, controlled outcome in every aspect of our free-flowing age.
And there are lots of examples of connections without controls that prove the need.
The worst case, of course, is September 11th. As the world's largest global society, we've allowed a virtually open-border to the world. The Golden Gate was open to the huddled masses, but it also was open to mass murderers. Now, as a nation, we struggle to gain control of process of immigration and transportation.
There are countless examples of problems emerging from an era obsessed with speed, and philosophically biased to unrestricted expedience. Yet the one I especially want to address is quality.
In this past year, American quality again is being challenged in general, and the automotive industry in particular.
Surely manufacturing is not without controls? We've been talking about controls in the Ford Production System...gates; check points, milestones, and walls, throughout our processes to assure quality. We have sign off points so problems won't accumulate down stream.
Plenty of check points, so why are quality problems slipping through?
During the Desert Storm War, General Norman Schwarzkopf was asked why experienced soldiers made wrong choices. I'll never forget his response.
Schwarzkopf said, "The truth of the matter is you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it."
We know what to do, yet we do not merely serve a new culture fixated on speed and expediency, we are members of that culture.
As someone once said, "We do not relate to others as the person we are: We are who we are in relation to others."
The milestones are there. Yet the prevailing bias for ever-accelerating motion influences us, and our gatekeepers, to make exceptions.
"I'll sign off if you promise to resolve that problem before it gets to the next check point." Or, "We can make up the time lost by bypassing this gate, and put in a fix in final assembly."
Sure, they will. Do you want to buy a watch?
There is a difference between using the latest enabling technologies to be more efficient, and simply shortcutting the system to get somewhere quicker.
The longest distance between two points is always a shortcut. So we don't do a test, sign off prematurely, check a box on a form without thinking... doing or not doing any one of thousands of acts that constitute a shortsighted shortcut.
What we need at this point is approaches that over-ride our own inclinations... electronic systems that supplement or supersede existing process controls and place an unbreachable barrier to quality compromises.
And when all else fails, we need a means of absolute containment, a way of being certain no quality problem can get beyond our plant doors.
The same electronics, which have inspired the problem, can be used here to contain it. E-solutions, in fact, can be far more effective than traditional sign off systems because they eliminate the arbitrary deciders.
To circumvent or crash a gate is to immediately alert senior quality leadership. That's what Ford's new Quality Verification System does. Defects are identified and feedback to the source achieved in less than an hour.
Ford's QVS also is unapologetically a barrier. It even has a great big lift arm like the gate at a railroad crossing or international border. Symbolically and literally, it bars all quality problems from passing through to dealers.
Another example of the barriers for quality is Customer Acceptance Line or CAL.
CAL is an in-plant series of standardized inspections that focus on Customer Satisfaction. All the concerns we detect will be repaired by standardized procedures, and the information will be feedback to production departments for permanent correction through our electronic data feedback system.
Containment without correction is only a stopgap solution. Eventually, all issues identified by the Containment will be traced back to their associated production zones where methodologies like error proofing, visual control, or standardized inspection are used to prevent the need for future containment.
Containment and Preventive approaches are all being integrated into Ford's e-Quality Operating System. We call it e-QOS because we have put all the information and documents online and eliminated the paper forms.
eQOS is a systematic, disciplined approach that uses standardized tools and practices to manage our business of preventing, containing quality.
Now, I know in this new age the idea of containment is aberrant. It seems to contradict the entire philosophy of flow-through systems where quality is assured by the process itself.
But I sincerely believe our industry needs to revisit and revise the notion of continuous flow. Dams, walls, barriers, and firewalls all carry negative connotations in the age of open connections.
Yet dams are not damnable. A dam contains a river at critical junctures to extract the maximum energy, and it fulfills many important needs such as assuring drinking water, irrigation and industry, flood control and waterway navigation.
Barriers in manufacturing are equally vital. They can assure that quality doesn't erode as it flows, and sometimes meanders, through the manufacturing landscape where personalities and misplaced priorities are the real challenges.
We need to bar every gate with an e-latch... link every gate in our processes to clear measurable, hard, irrefutable data. We need to use techniques like value-stream mapping to define the course quality takes. And we need to incorporate more automatic in-station process controls.
And if quality control sometimes requires that we lock down our plants, and dam our entire output, so be it.
It is better to dam our process than to have customers damning our products.
This, then, is an asymmetric age; when every employee and supplier employee has to be the decision maker, have the broad perspective of a CEO, and the tools of a quality tradesman. And every system needs to be able to guard against ourselves, to slow down, and sometimes stop and contain, individual acts of expediency.
And if in all of this you're asking, then what's the role of leadership, well, it has changed yet is no less vital to our success.
In an asymmetric world, the roles of leader and the workers have flipped. The organizational pyramid is upside down. The leader is there not to make all the decisions, but to make sure the right decisions are ultimately made.
Whether the followers believe in the leader isn't as important today as it is that the leader believes in his people.
The essential is trust. Trust that if given the responsibility, the authority, people will choose the right course of action.
Good leaders believe entirely in their people, and the result is a team that responds far more decisively to the leader's vision than would be possible with authority alone.
Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote a book about his years in the military.
In it, Powell tells of a time when as an Inspector General, he was sent out from Washington to evaluate the most advanced tank technologies.
In an exercise they equipped each tank command with different technologies, then had them compete to see which hardware would win.
Powell's conclusion was that it wasn't the equipment, but the people who made the decisive difference. Powell wrote, and I quote here:
"People, particularly gifted commanders, are what make units succeed."
Powell went on to say, "The way I like to put it, leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible."
We need leadership in quality more than ever before. We need leaders who don't merely say the right things, but actually do them
In an asymmetrical age, all of our efforts must be focused on convincing the individual participants, and getting them to fully commit to the over-arching vision. General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander in Gulf War, wrote:
"There is only one really fundamental military truth. And that's that you can add up the correlation of forces, the number of tanks, the number of airplanes, you add them up. But unless the soldier on the ground, or the airman in the air, has the will to win, has the strength of character to go into battle, believes that his cause is just, and has the support of his country... all the rest of that stuff is irrelevant."
At Ford, we are beginning to understand and apply the new paradigms of the asymmetric age. And we believe we will succeed, not just with new programs, tools and training, but by focusing on our people.
We believe the battle must be fought, and won, in the hearts and minds of every individual. And that's precisely where we at Ford are concentrating our efforts.