So, Jim Hackett's big day has finally come. Now, it's time to hear what the ex-office furniture ace has up his sleeve. It's time to see some magic.
What will he say and do differently as CEO of Ford Motor Co. than his predecessor, Mark Fields? He'll begin spelling out the details at an investor presentation in Dearborn, Mich., on Tuesday, Oct. 3, an event that may turn out to be a seminal moment in the company's history.
The danger is that Hackett could come off like every other future-gazing auto CEO on the planet these days. Sure, he can announce plans to offer (pick a number) electric vehicles by (pick a date) and roll out (pick another number) Level 4 autonomous vehicles by (still another date). Oh, and don't forget the pro forma robo-vehicle ride-hailing services as a part of a new mobility services strategy.
But if he is to talk about such things, he'll have to articulate, in each case, why Ford has a better idea.
There are key constituents to consider: customers, stock analysts, shareholders, Bill Ford and the family and, most importantly, employees. Fields failed to connect with some constituents even while running a ship that was in reasonably good shape. Hackett must explain why reasonably good shape is not good enough. And he must contend with a corporate culture that is more conservative and risk-averse than many of Ford's main competitors.
If he is to be as transformative as Alan Mulally, he needs a vision that is crystal clear, open-minded and flexible. And gutsy. He must be ready and willing to remake Ford but also explain that no company can do everything.
Most of all, he needs to inspire — as Mulally's One Ford strategy did. Mulally set an unmistakable tone and never wavered. People bought in.
Hackett already has a lot going for him — such as the dependably profitable F series. He has breathing room to innovate. But so did Fields.
These days, the vision thing is a huge deal for CEOs. Fields may have paid the ultimate career price because he had the wrong vision, or no vision at all. Hackett no doubt has a vision. He's built that way. But he'll have to prescribe more than a me-too passageway to Ford's future.