Managing with ConnectAbility’s Awareness Factor

By David Ryback, PhD.
When Otellini took over as CEO in May of 2005, he converted Grove’s old antagonistic philosophy of “Only the paranoid survive” to the more discrete “Praise in public, criticize in private.” 

 In order to integrate a sense of ConnectAbility into the company culture, Otellini hired sociologists and ethnographers to better discover what emotional ties potential customers had to certain product images in one particular region over another.  Intel even hired doctors to work with their ethnographers to explore which technologies the elderly might find most useful in monitoring their vital signs or tracking how victims of Alzheimer’s ate.  “I have seen more flexibility,” admitted Sony Vice-President, Mike Abary, “more of an open mind-set than in years past,” appreciating the Awareness Factor of Intel’s increasingly collaborative attitude.

When Bill Ford, Jr. took over as CEO of Ford Motor Co. after firing Jacques Nasser, it became clear that the corporate culture there was shifting away from Nasser’s aggressive, hierarchy-oriented status style to Bill Ford’s more collaborative awareness style.  Bill is a passionate environmentalist and student of Buddhist philosophy.  He’s much more people oriented than was Nasser who shook up the company with his hyper-aggressive management style.  Yet Bill Ford is no soft pushover.  As Mark Fields, president of Ford’s Americas division, puts it, “You don’t have to be a tyrant to be tough.”

Though Bill Ford has since yielded the presidency to former Boeing executive, Alan Mulally, he still maintains a strong influence over his family’s company, remaining executive chairman.  No lover of hierarchy, he answered, when asked about his giving up his title of CEO, “I’ve always said that titles are not important to me … What’s important is getting this company headed in the right direction.” After handing the CEO mantle over to Mulally, Ford said, “I have a lot of myself invested in this company, but not my ego.  I just want the company to do well.  It’s not about me.”

Continuing the priority of Connect Ability at Ford Motor Co., Mulally was characterized by the press as a new-age Lou Gerstner, but this time breaking new ground at Ford rather than at IBM, a “gregarious man … an executive with a strong track record for building teamwork in a large organization.”  This fit in with Bill Ford’s style of maintaining the ConnectAbility of his management team—“searching for a combination of subordinates who shared his desire for a teamwork-oriented, collegial management culture.”

In Mulally’s own words, “You talk to customers, dealers, Ford employees, UAW, your suppliers, your investors—everybody … I know that’s what I have to do.  I need to network with these groups.”

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