Ford has something of a scandal unfolding in Germany. Nothing particularly exotic – purchasing people on the take, apparently.
"Around 100 German police officers on Monday raided about 30 locations linked to US automaker Ford in the Cologne area: Ford plants, an unidentified company in Leverkusen and employees' private homes. The state prosecutor's office said it had for months been working on the investigation involving Ford staff and others suspected of corruption, breach of trust and fraud."
The senior folks at Ford are in no way involved. "Prosecuters said Ford had from the start cooperated closely with the authorities and was keen to clear up the allegations quickly."
Bill Ford, Alan Mulally and the senior leadership at Ford seem to be very principled guys who would in no way condone unethical – let alone illegal – behavior. I am sure they are 'cooperating closely' and will take whatever firm action is needed to 'clear things up quickly'. The question, however, is how a pocket of people who obviously did not share their principles were permitted to work at Ford and hatch such a scheme. In fact, it is not unusual for most companies to have such pockets of influential people who do not share leadership's values, and do not agree with the cultural principles.
The folks who thumb their nose at senior leadership's values don't normally engage in criminal activities like the Ford people in Germany apparently did, but they often weaken and undermine leadership's lean strategy. I'm not sure where I first saw this chart, but it is a very appropriate way to view the staff of a company embarking on a cultural transformation.
Everyone in the company can be assessed on the basis of two criteria: To what degree do they share the company's cultural values – respect for people, the importance of teamwork and inclusion, commitment to all of the stakeholders, the supremacy of customers, etc…? And how technically competent are they in their jobs.
The folks who fall into Box B – highly competent and fully committed to the values should clearly be in leadership roles and given a great deal of responsibility. Those in Box D – committed to the culture, but lacking technical skills are the prime targets for training. Hopefully few people, if any, fall into Box C – neither technically competent nor committed to the values.
The challenge for senior management in taking a company from mediocre, or even good, to great are the people in Box A – the ones who put up good numbers, are viewed as good at their area of specialty – but do not support lean principles.
Almost certainly in the chain of command between Bill Ford and the scoundrels in Germany who are embarrassing the company such a person exists. I see it in just about every company I deal with that looks to embark on the transformation to excellence – the hot shot sales guy whose numbers give him license to do whatever he wants including skipping out on every planning and training event, the veteran purchasing manager or master scheduler who has built a reputation as the wizard of institutional knowledge who is seen as indispensable because of his long track record for expediting the company out of trouble, the controller who thinks lean is a lot of fuzzy-headed nonsense that only has value if it can be reflected in her GAAP numbers. The manager who refuses to understand overall process optimization and criticizes other functional groups for causing all of his departmental shortcomings.
And far too often I see leadership failing to realize that in dealing with these people they are at a critical fork in the strategic road. They rationalize bad behavior and lack of support for cultural values, allowing these people to opt out of the core cultural commitments needed to transform the company. Senior leadership is often blind to the fact that the whole company is watching them to see what they do with these jerks. In failing to step up to them, the top folks inadvertently send a loud and clear message to the company that numbers trump values. And the transformation is in serious trouble.
In the best companies, commitment to culture and values is not optional. Senior management operates under the belief that technical skills can be taught, while values are part of someone's DNA. They willingly hire and promote people whose technical skills may be lacking because they know those shortcomings can be corrected with a little education. But they have zero tolerance for people who do not share the culture. No amount of training can make someone respect others if such respect was not instilled in them from birth.