Ford Motor Co. surpassed Honda in initial vehicle quality for the first time and reached new levels of customer satisfaction with vehicle quality, according to a 2009 U.S. Global Quality Research System (GQRS) survey conducted for Ford by RDA Group of Bloomfield Hills, MI. Ford also is statistically tied with Toyota at the top of the industry when it comes to initial vehicle quality, according the survey.
This is great news. It gives all of us hope that American industry can turn things around. Of course, there’s more to winning in the business world than quality, but quality is an excellent place to start. In fact, it’s your ticket to the game. If you can’t get quality right, then you can’t play. Your customers will look elsewhere.
In the early 1980s Ford turned their business around. They began by loosing more money than any company had ever lost, and within five years they made more profit than any company had ever made. The transition was remarkable, and I had a ringside seat. I was able to work with Ford’s suppliers in a consultant and trainer role. I was also able to visit Ford for Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s seminars. Those meetings featured panels of Ford executives and Dr. Deming discussing their transformation activities. Without a doubt it was the best training a young consultant could get. I learned that when the top people take over a transformation with a sense of urgency that most of the barriers evaporate. All of us consultants were challenged to explain our approach to an audience that was intensely interested. We shared our success and failure stories with Ford’s leadership, and they shared theirs with us. It was a serious business, and it was an exciting time.
It looks as if Ford is having exciting times once again. Hopefully this time it will stick and they’ll have permanent prosperity. I think that the fact that Ford has refused the government’s offer of “help” is a significant factor. It was a risky thing to do, but by doing so Ford was faced with an urgency similar to that which existed when they made their last transformation. I believe the sense of urgency is a vital ingredient in success.