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Will the Big 3 Plan mean Business for us all?

Auburn Hills, Michigan, Dec. 01, 2008
Lloyd Williams

(A Letter to Wagoner, Nardelli and Mulally)

Dear Rick, Bob and Alan,

With some bated breath Michigan waits, and the country waits too, for your ‘business plan’. If you want the bail-out, that is.

A business plan is not new to any of you. You have seen and reviewed scores of such plans at every strategic or tactical move your businesses made over the years. But this is different, I reckon. Different not just for you, but for all of us in Michigan and for everyone who shares in the destiny of the auto industry the country over. We want more than a hand-out.

You have come in for more than a little flak in recent weeks and you may have been taken aback by the derisive nature of the criticism. You have learnt one lesson for sure (I hope), and it is that “the medium is the message”.

Onto the purpose of my letter:

First of all, let this plan go beyond the 25 billion dollars. If this business plan is written to merely address how $25B will be spent, even though wisely and with some long term goal in mind, it will fall short of all our expectations. The plan has to go further, beyond the case for a hand-out. The plan needs to address some of the crucial issues in your strategies for the industry. Today you know that unlike the happy past, only what is good for America is good for the Big 3. Not the other way around. Like any other product its customer is still king and with the globalization of the auto industry it is not too far off in the future that my car will be just another commodity, nothing glorified, a lot cheaper, quality being the key distinguisher, and even returnable to the dealer within 90 days if I am not satisfied! If the business plan has little to do with forward thinking on future products that is good for America the plan will fall short. And now is not the time to fall short, because doing so will reveal the gap we have in thought leadership in the industry.

Secondly, engage the supply chain. In testimony to congress much has been made about the impending economic catastrophe if the Big 3 went down and its ramifications for all who even remotely depend on it. And there is credibility to that. The future of your suppliers and their workforce is being challenged. As the destiny of the American auto industry is being speculated upon, thousands of your employees and those of your suppliers continue to lose their jobs and homes. In your plea for a bail-out you are unfortunately stretching your hand out to that laid off employee and tax payer. And that is precisely why your plan should have a stake for the larger enterprise or industry that is affected. It requires engaging your supply base in the process of change. Your suppliers have ideas and interests that can do you a lot of good, if you could involve them in the plan and give them the due respect they deserve. If your state of affairs is not just about you but includes every tiered supplier to your business then it is imperative to reconstruct your business around a model of collaborative enterprise. The situation is starving for creative leadership and courage to get off the beaten track. Call your key suppliers to the table, encourage them to contribute to re-engineering your business and give them a stake in your success. This is what your business plan needs to incorporate; this is what will sell – not just for the infamous hand-out, not just for Congress – but more for the workforce in Michigan and the employees of your industry, for the reformation and overhaul of your business itself.

Good luck with your business plan and hope we all have a place in it.



Lloyd Williams, Chief Operating Officer, Ranal Inc. Michigan