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Why Alan Mulally and Ford Is a Better Story Than Donald Sterling and the Clippers

Fields told a story about one of the things that makes Mulally a great manager. In Mulally's early days at Ford, leadership at the company gathered for a session in which it discussed how to improve inter-departmental communications, which had long been a weak point.

Mulally let the various executives talk for 45 minutes, Fields said. They discussed in excruciating detail who should report to who and topics such as "how the business units would work with the field team" and various other intricacies of the communications flow charts.

Then Mulally "gets up, goes to the white board, asks Felicia Fields for a marker, and writes across it 'working together.' He says, 'Can't we just work together?' It was one of those light bulb moments," said Fields, who realized then that "we're making this all too hard."

One of the things I remember about Mulally in the early days is a quote he offered when asked if Ford was contemplating a merger.  "We're going to merge with ourselves," he responded, another indication that a big part of his job was to break down the walls separating divisions of Ford from other divisions of Ford.

Anyone with the remotest connection to the auto industry could go on and on telling stories about how Mulally changed Ford.

Ford shares, which drifted as low as $1.65 in 2009, were trading early Thursday afternoon at $16.05, down 10 cents. The share price improvement made tens of thousands of people, including Mulally, richer.    

It would be nice to go to the gym this afternoon and to find that people have moved on to discussing the Ford transformation, as opposed to once again reviewing the excruciating details of Donald Sterling's life and deeds.

Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

To contact this writer, click here.

Follow @tedreednc

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