Achieving the Impossible Through Teamwork and Process

B-24 Liberators under construction at Ford's W...

B-24 Liberators under construction at Ford’s Willow Run line during World War II. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had lunch with a friend the other day who introduced me to a wonderful gentleman who shares many of my philosophies about leadership and management.  During the course of lunch, this gentleman told me a story about Henry Ford that intrigued me, so I did a little more research.

Some of you may know, although I did not, that Ford Motor Company did not just make automobiles.  Perhaps Ford’s most impressive feat was actually the production of B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II.  As America was preparing for war, the government realized the need for more aircraft and asked the Ford Motor Company to consider producing parts for the B-24.  Ford’s Vice President for Production, Charles Sorensen, visited the plant that was producing the aircraft to confirm that Ford would be able to assist.  After seeing the production facility, which was manufacturing planes at a rate of approximately one per day, Sorensen believed Ford could do better.  Using Henry Ford’s mass production techniques that helped the company produce 10,000 automobiles a day, Sorensen determined Ford could build the planes at a rate of one per hour.  This, at the time, was an extraordinary commitment.  The B-24 aircraft has 1,225,000 parts; it was taking one day to build one plane.  How could Ford Motor Company ever pull this off!

* Ford built the Willow Run production facility, designed with a layout and the production processes that had proven successful in their automotive manufacturing.

* Ford used hundreds of instructors to train nearly 50,000 workers how to build the B-24 aircraft.

* Ford was able to unite this team of workers, to get them focused on a common goal, and to build a selfless team committed to the goal.

* Ford analyzed every step in the production process to eliminate waste in materials and labor.

The result:  Ford produced over 8,000 bombers at a production rate of one per hour.  Sorensen was true to his commitment and Ford Motor Company achieved what was thought to be impossible.

So what leadership lessons can we learn from this example?  As leaders, this story should inspire us first to dream big.  If we dream big, we can certainly achieve great things.  Others may deem your dream impossible, but if you believe in it and have a sound plan, you can achieve it!  Second, training and development of our team members is important.  We can have the greatest process in the world, but if we don’t train our team, we will not be able to accomplish our goals.  Third, process mapping is a valuable exercise.  Take time to break down your processes and to make sure all steps are performed at maximum efficiency.  Lastly, teamwork is paramount to any success.  People must be committed to the goal and selfless enough to work together as a team with that goal in mind.  You can achieve the unimaginable through the power of teamwork.

Thanks for reading,
Jim

Ways to follow Dr. Jim Earle:
Twitter – @jvearle
Blog – http://www.jvearle.wordpress.com
Facebook – JVEarleConsulting
Book – 100 Yards of Success: Leadership Lessons from College Football, http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=978-1-62510-731-2

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2 thoughts on “Achieving the Impossible Through Teamwork and Process

  1. Good stuff (as usual Jim)!!

    Fyi : we live just a few miles from the Willow Run Airport & often go to a memorial day event there where they bring in some of the old “birds”…really cool stuff!

    Mike Belanger

    Project Manager

    Master Craft Carpet Service, Inc.

    12870 Inkster Rd

    Redford, Mi 48239

    P:313.387.7000

    F:313.387.0266

    ________________________________

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