The Vision Thing

I'm fond of reading the Corner Office column by Adam Bryant in the NY Times for its insights into the leadership style, challenges and solutions of others at the helm. I found the following conversation several weeks ago with Alan R. Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company and former head of Boeing, to be very entertaining and enlightening. Here's the snippet that caught my attention:

"Is the airplane really about an airplane or is it about getting people together around the world so they can find out how more alike they are than different? And is a car about just a driving experience or is it about safe and efficient transportation, and your family, and freedom? And so the higher the calling, the higher the compelling vision that you can articulate, the more it pulls everybody in."

"One of my favorite stories is an analogy where this reporter stops by a construction site and interviews three bricklayers. He asks the first bricklayer, 'What are you doing?' And he says, 'Well, Im making a living laying these bricks.' The reporter says: 'Oh, that's great. That's very noble.'

He asks the next bricklayer, 'What are you doing?' And he says: 'Well, Im practicing the profession of bricklaying. Im going to be the best bricklayer ever.'

And the reporter asks the third bricklayer, 'What are you doing?' And he says, 'Im developing a cathedral.'

There is technical excellence and professionalism, but we all want to contribute to making a cathedral. And the more we feel that and we know what our part in it is, the more I think you can take the team performance to a whole other level of excellence."

Mr. Mulally captures the essence of leadership and employee empowerment very well with that story.

So let me put it this way, ask yourself, what business are you really in?

As leaders in the Henry Ford Production System, communicating our inspiring vision is key to leading effective teams as we strive to change the culture of work. This is what we are about as leaders and managers, investing so much time and effort together to leverage the power of our workers to create ever better and better work through defined Ford, Deming and Toyota inspired work rules and principles.

So, again, I ask you, what are we all building together?