Managaging Organizational Change

With falling vehicles sales and high costs, getting their North American operations profitable may be impossible no matter what the union gives. All the UAW has to push back with is a strike. And, strike it may. If the UAW gives up what the car companies want in this round of negotiations, the union will cease to exist as the bargaining force that it has been for decades. The union may decide that it is better to risk dying while defending its workers that to be overrun without a struggle (McIntyre 2012). This particular union took on the Change Manager as Director Image.

According to chapter 2, the director image is based on an image of management as control and of change outcomes as being achievable. It is therefore up to the change manager to direct the organization in particular ways in order to produce the required change. The assumption is that change is a strategic choice that managers make and the survival and general well-being of the organization depends on them. In this particular situation the Managers in charge felt they would fight for what is right, even if that means fighting until the end. The image I feel best facilitates Ford is the Caretaker Image.

In the caretaker image, the (ideal) image of management is still one of control, although the ability to exercise control is severely constrained by a variety of forces, both internally and externally driven, that propel change relatively independent of a manager’s intentions. For example, despite the change manager’s best intentions to implement activities to encourage entrepreneurial and innovative behavior, they may feel like this is a continually failing exercise as the organization grows, becomes more bureaucratic, and enacts strategic planning cycles, rules, regulations, and centralized practices.

In this situation, inexorable growth and the issues associated with it are outside the control of any individual manager of change. In this rather pessimistic image, at best managers are caretakers, shepherding their organizations along as best they can. Ford has conflict, turmoil, and uncertainty but is that necessarily a bad thing? I would be more concerned with a company that was “complacent, steady, and overconfident” to use just one set of antonyms. A culture that has a presumption of imperfection can be very stressful.

That type of stress can be good, and the fear of a cataclysmic industry or market disruption is often what drives the most successful lean manufacturing efforts. Change is hard, you have to really want to change or be scared into doing it. When you possess a caretaker image A lean transformation takes real leadership, and that’s where we see a wide disparity between Ford and GM. On the Ford side we have CEO Alan Mulally who came from Boeing, a company with a very strong lean program. We have some problems with Boeing’s offshoring practices, but much of that is driven by political necessity.

Bottom line is that he understands lean, and just recently visited archrival Toyota with VP Mark Fields. At a private dinner on Wednesday, Ford CEO Alan Mulally told journalists that the recent visit he and Mark Fields made to Toyota’s headquarters was born out of a desire to understand more about the Japanese automaker’s manufacturing and product development processes, which Mulally holds in very high esteem.