Despite rumors to the contrary, COO Nick Scheele says Ford Motor Co.'s top executives get along well. He denied published reports that he is using an executive coach in an interview with Staff Reporter Amy Wilson on May 9.
Do you need to ratchet up your cost-cutting and turnaround goals?
No, I don't think the goal changes. What we'd like to do is get there quicker. The delivery mechanism needs to be intensified. That is one of the reasons we reacted on the product creation process to say: "Hey, guys, business as usual is not going to be good enough. We need to do more with less."
How will that product-development reorganization help?
That, in the long run, is going to give us big dividends. We've been in an era of where we designed all-new (products), (with) all-new (parts). We now have changed that approach. We've said what we want - a lot of carryover, a lot of reuse, a lot of commonality - but don't let the customer suffer. Don't let the customer see it. Don't do what others have done. And we think we can get there. You saw the Futura. It's not the remotest bit like the Mazda6 (on which it is based). So these are the ways we are doing it.
How are your relations with suppliers?
We still have some fences to mend, I think it's fair to say. The proof is not what we say; the proof is what we do. And that's a fairly long cycle. Our objective is to become the customer of choice. Are we the customer of choice right now? Maybe for some. Are we for everybody? Probably not. Does the (customer) of choice mean rolling over and saying, "Supplier, you tell us what to do"? No. It means having very frank, very open, very honest discussions and reaching an agreement that is a win-win for both parties. It doesn't mean you avoid a difficult discussion or debate. But you do it in a nonemotional, nonthreatening, fact-based way that leads to both parties knowing that is the correct solution.
How is the executive team getting along, given the reports of discord?
We're working very well. It's baffling to me where this all comes from. It's a very good working relationship. What could I say to prove it? I don't know.
Do you have executive coaches?
No. I've never had an executive coach. I don't know an executive coach. I don't know what an executive coach does. I just don't know where that comes from.
How do you battle it?
At the end of the day, is the team getting results? I think the evidence would say we're getting some results. Now, are they results that we're satisfied with? No. We want more, we want quicker, and we want higher. We improved in J.D. Power, our recalls are down, our cost performance is up, our results are better, our new models are coming. These are the things we said we'd do.
Rumor and innuendo I find very difficult to deal with, frankly. I can't honestly believe anybody who knows me or Bill (Ford) or David (Thursfield) or Jim (Padilla) would take it seriously. We are all pretty approachable. I think the team has gelled. It has delivered something and continues to do so.
Do you have an image problem because of the rumors and the last two or three years of bad news?
I don't know. We've put out a revitalization plan. We were very open in the goals. We were very open in the actions. We were very open in saying this is what we're going to do. We've put up what we planned. We've now beaten what everybody thought for five straight quarters. Now, does it take six straight quarters? Seven? Eight? Nine? I don't know. But all we can do is go on doing what we can do. And what we can do is control what we can control, implement what we said we'd implement and deliver the results. All the rest I view as fluff.
Is it affecting how you do your job?
It's not affecting how any of us do our jobs because what we're concentrating on is getting the company back to the position it needs to be and delivering what we've committed to. We're not going to go around trying to chase shadows. I wish the shadows weren't there. It clearly is not good. But can I fix it? Can Bill fix it? With results.