Look for a challenging project that uses some of your weaker skills. Volunteer for it and work to improve those skills. Needing to accomplish the task will make you work on those skills by researching, learning and practicing them. A year after coming back from cancer I asked to go into sales when I was between projects. I had no idea what sales was about and thought it would be challenging to figure out how work was won and how a bid was put together. It turned out that I enjoyed “connecting the dots” in real time with a client to build trust more than I liked doing the actual project. After six months a client said they would award us two platforms if I managed them, so I was pulled out of sales but by then I knew I could do it and enjoy it. This knowledge helped set Mustang up for success.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Higgs, an authority on corporate culture is the author of the upcoming book “Culture Code Champions: 7 Steps to Scale and Succeed in Your Business”. He recently launched the Culture Code Champions podcast (www.culturecodechampionspodcast.com). Higgs is also Co-Founder and retired CEO of Mustang Engineering Inc., which he and two partners started in Houston, Texas in 1987 to design and build offshore oil platforms. Over the next 20 years, they grew the company from their initial $15,000 investment and three people to a billion-dollar company with 6,500 people worldwide; since then, it has grown to a $2 billion company with more than 12,000 people. Higgs is a distinguished 1974 graduate (top 5 percent academically) of the United States Military Academy at West Point and runner up for a Rhodes scholarship.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
I was born in Denver, Colorado, lived in Fort Collins until my Mom was divorced when I was eight and then moved to Cleveland, Ohio. My Mom, Boy Scouts, and sports shaped me. As an Eagle Scout, National Honor Society in academics and lettering in Soccer and Wrestling I applied for a Congressional appointment to West Point.
At West Point, I wrestled for one year in Division I but grew six inches and no longer fit the wrestling body type. I focused on Division I Soccer and lettered two years while anchoring the defense that set the shutout record at West Point (the whole truth…I did score a goal for Navy in my senior year…oops!). I was a “Starman” (top 5% academically) and a semi-finalist for a Rhodes scholarship.
I was an Honor Graduate of the Army Ranger School and “King of the Pits” in hand to hand combat…a cool thing in the unit. I was Atomic Demolitions certified with a Top Secret Clearance and spent my short career in the 8th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. My last two years I was a Company Commander…best job in the army!!
We moved to Houston, Texas and I started working in the relatively new industry of offshore oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. I actually started as a secretarial assistant, then moved into purchasing and then into being a junior engineer.
One year later I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. After an operation and radiation, I spent a year doing experimental chemotherapy at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. We watched a number of guys not make it, but I survived and got back in shape.
Five years later, during a huge ten-year downturn in the “oil patch” due to $3.50/barrel oil, I quit my job and, along with two colleagues, started Mustang Engineering to design offshore oil platforms in 50–150 feet of water. Our goal was to have a strong 35-person company that stayed together…no more hire and fire mentality as was rampant in the rest of the industry. We focused on people and culture…eventually bringing our clients and suppliers into our culture.
We had the “secret sauce” in culture and 20 years later were at 6,500 people in 12 countries and doing $1Bn in annual revenues. We were at the cutting edge as the industry moved from small fixed platforms in 100 feet of water to floating cities in 7,000 feet of water. Our “Young Guns” program developed 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation leaders that took the company to $2Bn six years later.
I was awarded the Distinguished Eagle and Silver Beaver awards by the Boy Scouts of America for exemplary service. My partners and I received the ECC Lifetime Achievement Award for “Visionary Leadership in the Process Industry.” We were also #42 in the Inc. 500 fastest growing companies in America and the fastest growing engineering firm in North America. We were labeled the “Kings of Culture” worldwide by the industry magazine Upstream and I’m now working to show others how to create a life-changing culture.
My son and daughter both started their own companies and pushed me to write Culture Code Champions: 7 Steps to Scale and Succeed in Your Business. They wanted me to shard the gold nuggets of culture that I had taught them as they grew up in the Mustang environment.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
We started a company (Mustang) to design offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico by three of us chipping in $5,000 each. Three months later a friend called to ask if we would bid on a maintenance project for Houston’s Metro bus company. He had been laid off from the “oil patch” and landed at Metro. He knew that our offshore design safety standards were what he needed in the design of bus maintenance facilities, due to some recent incidents. We did not want to “waste time” bidding on a government job with minority labor requirements and copious quantities of forms that we would be filling out for the first time. But this was a friend we had worked with for many years and perhaps our bid would help him get a better effort from Metro’s normal design firms. We felt that we should take care of him.
Our friend worked some magic and we were short-listed to the final four bidders; three of the usual Metro suspects and us. I purchased a book on bid presentations and it recommended going last for a situation like ours where we were the “Black Horse.” That way the evaluation panel could ask direct questions comparing us to the best aspects of the previous presenters.
In visualizing what the presentation would be like, I felt that the panel would be tired after listening to three presentations. After all — the presentations were being given by engineers, so they had to be boring as could be. And it would be getting close to lunch time — another possible distraction. Finally, they would be listening to an offshore platform engineering firm that would probably run back to that type of work as soon as it became available. I figured they were only letting us present in order to humor our friend.
We walked in with an easel that I had found in the hallway, which had a discarded Campbell’s Soup advertising placard on (might as well play to their hunger☺). I turned it over, where I had written “Mustang Will Satisfy You!!” Then I broke all protocol I had been briefed on and walked across the room to the raised table where the panel sat and started to put a large Snickers Bar in front of each person while poorly singing the jingle. While moving down the table I asked them to pay attention to this presentation, because they were going to hear about a different kind of engineering firm — one that wanted to make them a hero in their jobs. When I got to the last person I placed a big Snickers in front of her and then pulled out a small one; saying it was for her baby — she was pregnant but not showing. This got the whole panel laughing as they wondered how I knew. Obviously, I had been listening closely as I had been visiting with people at Metro and my friend who had “coached” me on Metro’s needs.
The laughter opened things up to where we could get into a constructive conversation. We didn’t want to do Metro because of the red tape — we just wanted to take care of them and do great work. They felt that they could reduce the red tape and put some of our people in their offices for better communication. We won that work and ended up putting 80% of our people on it while waiting for the offshore work to come back — it saved our fledgling company!
Key learnings were:
- That relationships need to be cherished and that being other-oriented will always come back to help you. We only bid to help our friend and it saved us.
- Be a little bit shockingly different in order to differentiate your team from others. We did not come across as boring engineers that want to talk about how to design an oil pump. We were all about how to take care of them and make them successful. We talked ideas and concepts…of course we knew how to engineer…let’s talk on a higher plane.
- Appeal to all the senses possible when making your points. We had sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell in those first few minutes and then got them laughing. Laughing and smiling starts to move a person’s demeanor and then you can keep it moving toward the conversation and outcome you want.
- I had what I ended up calling that magical “It Factor” of being able to close a sale when conventional wisdom would point in another direction. Some of that panache came from knowing that my partners and I would do whatever it took get the job done right for the client.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are very inclusive of clients, partners, suppliers and our coworkers as we want to make each one of them a hero in what they are doing. This means that we work very hard on every handoff that happens every day. We work both sides of the handoff just like in a relay race to make sure it is smooth, with no surprises and both sides are running when the baton is handed off. In order to be inclusive, we have to be very transparent. We have the client team office with us and we ensure our suppliers understand the entire project so that they can have more impact on solutions to save cost and schedule while improving safety and quality for our clients.
We always ran on a procurement driven schedule. This meant that once we had the longest delivery piece of equipment awarded, everything else had to fit into that schedule. This allowed us to cut 30% out of standard industry schedules, with a similar reduction in cost — because time really is money.
One of the challenges in offshore work is that we never really know the production characteristics of a reservoir until after it has been producing for a while. We make educated guesses based on exploratory wells that give us a very small sample. One time, we were 40% into construction of one of the largest oil platforms that would be installed in the Gulf of Mexico for British Petroleum when a new test well showed that we needed more heat in the processing system. This type of a change at this late date would normally shut down construction for a few months while engineering figured out the equipment changes required, designs were updated and contracts were re-negotiated. A schedule slip like this would put the installation of the platform into hurricane season when prices skyrocket, and the risk increases tenfold.
We calculated the heat and equipment requirements over the weekend and met with the equipment vendors on Monday to discuss heat exchanger needs and the fact that the oil treater being built would be too small. The exchanger vendor-supplied additional units at the same bid price and designed them to have identical connections as the originals, so drafting was free to install them in the drawings with everything they needed. The treater vendor identified some other space available and reconfigured the treater into three pieces…saving what they already had done and adding two new pieces priced by extrapolating off of the original bid. They supplied connection and weight data on the new pieces by Wednesday. By Saturday we had the drawings done, checked and reissued to the construction yard. It took ten days to implement the design change including purchasing and no change in the construction schedule. Now that was making heroes of the vendors, the client and our team!
We faced mistakes or changes head on with integrated teams that busted the normal silos (silo busting!) between clients, engineers, vendors and fabricators.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When I reflect on mentors, there is quite a list including; Boy Scout leaders, teachers, Division I coaches, Ranger School instructors, army officers, business clients, and suppliers, bosses and partners. In every case they saw a potential I did not see in myself and set the performance bar higher for me than it was for my peers. I would not be where I am today if I had not accepted their challenges and exceeded their expectations.
Colonel Ruff stands out in my mind. He received a very rare battlefield commission from Sergeant to Lieutenant and was a bear of a man. Of the six company commanders in the 8th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, I was the only Lieutenant — all the rest were Captains with 4–8 years more experience. Colonel Ruff fully expected me to be better than he had been as a combat-hardened Lieutenant, and he challenged me to build a better unit than the other company commanders to justify the Battalion leadership’s decision to give me a company. He was a Ranger and respected my being “King of the Pits” in hand-to-hand combat at Ranger School. He knew I had the grit, mental toughness and determination to meet his expectations.
My wife Ann and I were friends of his family outside of work — allowing me to see how good he was at having a work-life balance. When he walked in the front gate of the motor pool, however, you could see and feel the shock wave move ahead of him as everyone stepped up their game. At home, he was loving, fun and committed. In racquetball he wanted to step on your throat. He gloated as I had to sign his certificate after he beat me at racquetball. Like my classmate and soccer buddy General David Petraeus says “Life is a competitive endeavor” — Colonel Ruff lived that saying to the fullest measure and set the bar high for everyone he touched.
Colonel Ruff demonstrated that developing relationships with people in the organization helps set expectations and enables development of leaders of character throughout the team.
At my farewell party, after five years in the army, he pinned four stars on my collar saying that was my destiny in the army and he expected me to do that level of work as a civilian. I had no idea what my career was going to be like as a civilian, but his confidence made me feel for the moment that I was capable of doing a good job.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
At West Point, Plebe (freshman) boxing is a “rite of passage” and there is a sign on the wall stating that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That sums up resiliency in my mind. The components of resiliency to me are; mental toughness, honesty and a sense of humor.
Mental toughness comes from working through setbacks in every stage of growing up as well as in various situations people find themselves in. They learn that a positive outlook and the discipline to follow through on a decision with hard work and good habits will pull them and their companions through. Part of this is the ability to imagine a better place and figuring out how to get there — essentially looking at devastating setbacks as a new challenge to overcome. A mentally tough person has a bias to action with good common sense to keep things simple. There is definitely some stubbornness in there as you “do what you gotta do” to change the situation.
Honesty means that you deal in reality with yourself and others. You do not sugar coat things or try to wish them away. This honesty builds trust with others and that bonding will see everyone through to a better place. You want people to be the best version of themselves, and that will only happen if there is open and honest communication about the challenges in front of them.
Having a sense of humor helps restore balance in tough situations and provides a moment of relief to recharge your batteries to continue the fight. When you are fighting ten big challenges and life throws a whopper at you out of the blue, a little laughter helps the team settle down and take a fresh look at how to approach the new setback. You can sit back and look at how many things that were previous problems but are now handled easily. You can take some pride in the preparation and training everyone has — and that can be applied to the work. The fresh perspective re-invigorates everyone to get back to work and start eliminating some of the challenges.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Paul Redmon personifies resilience in my mind. We met in 1980 when we both joined a startup company designing and managing the construction of offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Due to a lack of offices, we shared a small conference room. Paul had just returned from a few years doing structural design on huge platforms in the North Sea and was considered a “water-walker” top flight engineer. Now he was in Houston doing very small platforms in 50–100 feet of water. In order to optimize the structural platform design, he decided that he needed to learn how to design the production facilities in order to better understand the tradeoffs in design. He went to school nights and weekends to get a second degree and then requested to be put on a project I was designing for Transco Exploration to use his new skills. I had created a very repeatable design process for Transco and he picked it up like a duck going into the water. Soon he was a top project manager.
When the oil price went to $3.50 per barrel and a ten-year downturn started, there were many times where there was no work to be found. Using his knowledge of structures, drilling and production equipment he invented a minimal platform that made a number of projects viable at the low oil price. He was finding a way to keep himself and others employed.
Paul loved the people he worked with, but the hire-fire mentality in the industry rubbed him the wrong way. In 1987 he pulled Felix Covington and me together to start our own company with the vision of keeping a strong 35-person team together through thick and thin. This was the operative phrase for the first four years as the industry was still in a funk.
He developed what we called “No Fate” Leadership, meaning that there was no fate that the company had to go up and down with the industry…perhaps a perfect definition of someone who demanded resiliency in his company. For 20 years the company did not go down as it weathered six downturns and grew to 6,500 people with offices around the world and $1Bn in annual revenues.
The measure of Paul’s resiliency came at a critical moment when the company could either take the lead in deepwater design worldwide or fall by the wayside. Our first project for Exxon was the world’s largest and deepest (5,000 feet water depth) drilling and production platform in the world. The project was under a magnifying glass from Exxon and their partner British Petroleum as well as the entire offshore industry around the world. A Monday came when we were supposed to issue the first drawings to the Brown and Root fabrication yard to start piping and the drawings were not ready, despite assurances from our design team the week before. Paul was called into a meeting with the top people from Exxon to explain and he took total blame for the shortfall while asking for twelve days to get this mammoth project back on track.
Then he dug into the weeds with some trusted people on the project and did some re-planning. From tight relationships developed over many years, he pulled 35 people from other projects within Mustang and also in the industry to set up some rolling “SWAT” teams that would nail pieces of the design ahead of the fabrication yard. He developed the mantra of “Make Brown and Root a Hero” to change the focus of the design team away from engineering and Exxon and toward the team that would make everyone successful. He pulled key people from all levels of Brown and Root into the team for better planning, execution and control. Together this combined “team of teams” then set world class benchmarks for performance on a first-of-a-kind project in deepwater.
Instead of this project being our first and last project for Exxon, Paul’s teams became Exxon’s upstream engineering arm worldwide for deepwater and automation…all due to his resilience in that key meeting when things could have gone either way.
In my opinion any Founder and CEO that starts a company and turns it profitable is a very resilient person due to the array of challenges they will have had to overcome.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
When our company was eleven years old we hired three top people from an engineering firm that was disintegrating after being acquired. These people would be the core of our new Process Plants Sector that would work downstream facilities like refineries and petrochemical plants. That industry segment had been on hard times for seven straight years and still had three to go before things would slowly turn around. They told me that the Mustang “win-win” contracting strategy and “Making Heroes” culture absolutely would not work in the downstream sector where you better have a top-notch lawyer on your side.
At the time we had turned the upstream sector and the onshore pipeline sectors around to our way of thinking and I did not want to have part of the company operating differently. I went on sales calls with the new leaders to tell our story repeatedly until they could tell it, and within a year they were getting the kinds of contracts and relationships we wanted. Many times, it felt like I was pushing against a brick wall, but it was worth it for the long-term success it developed.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Being diagnosed with Stage IV cancer one year after leaving the army (at the age of 28) was a devastatingly major setback as I had just moved to a startup company and would have to go on long term disability. Our finances had finally stabilized after leaving the army and having our first child, but this would put them in shambles for the next two years.
After a year of chemotherapy, I came back to work, and the industry was in a freefall due to the oil price. Loyalty between the oil companies and engineers and suppliers had disappeared. If you finished a job and there was not another one available, you were let go. There was a feeling of helplessness everywhere in the industry as the oil price seemed to move on the whims of OPEC and you had no control over your future.
I was determined to break this cycle that was destroying work relationships and in many cases family relationships. This led me to jumping in with Paul and Felix to start Mustang. We had watched 30 engineering firms come and go and in fact six firms started within a year of our start. We visited with other startups about joining with them but decided our trust bond was greatest between the three of us to start a people-focused company that could stay that way long term.
We did and materially changed the industry. The proof to me was 25 years after starting I went into a room where there were over 100 “children of Mustangers” who were now working at the company…that is strong evidence of our culture changing lives.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I had a single Mom who put me into Boy Scouts to be around some squared away men. When I was 12 and a Second Class scout I was given the leadership of a patrol because the troop was growing faster than boys were advancing in rank. We went to the troops first Camporee where we would compete against 40 other patrols in 15 events ranging from First Aid, to knots & lashings, to fire building and cooking. One station we came to in the woods was where we had to send a message using semaphore flags. We did not know semaphore as it was a First-Class scout requirement, so I asked if we could make up our own Patrol Flag Language. The grader said that we could have ten minutes to do that and that the grade would be based on accuracy and time…so we went over to some logs to discuss a flag language.
Everyone contributed thoughts from waving the flag for each letter of the alphabet and stopping on the right one to waving the flag in the shape of the letter to a combo of a stationary flag and one waving to make the rest of the letter. Finally, we settled on the left flag being every fifth letter and the right flag being the in between letters. Then our patrol poet came up with the mnemonic for the left flag of Every Junky Ostrich Turns Yellow. We did the message and came in eighth for score! This built our confidence as a team and we actually won the flint and steel fire competition.
Boy Scouts continuously challenged resiliency due to tough weather conditions, long hikes with backpacks, cooking in crazy conditions and building bridges or towers using your hands, brains and teamwork. Eventually, as an Eagle Scout and the Senior Patrol Leader I had to manage the calendar, budget, advancement, morale and culture of the Troop…all components of becoming more resilient.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
Develop good habits that will strengthen your resilience just like working out strengthens your muscles. Here are five good habits that will make anyone more resilient:
- Get a Planner and spend ten minutes every morning working on the day, week and monthly planning tasks that will make you and those you touch successful. “The plan will set you free” because you will know all critical activities are lined up to get done, so there is much less worry and more productivity. The plan helps create your bias for action. You will also know what time is available to help someone else. I started using a day planner out of the army but due to wearing a number of hats in the startup of Mustang switched to the Planner Pad that has a week at a glance and a funnel aspect to sort your activities by category (hat) down into daily tasks. This system worked well for me all the way from zero to $1Bn in revenues and was flexible to match the changing responsibilities I took on. I also put family notes in the pad and regale my kids now that they are grown with various tidbits.
- Practice estimating by estimating everything! How long will it take to do a task? What resources are needed? How long to walk down the hall? How much does that thing weigh? How long is that sidewalk? You will be amazed at how good you will become, and people will start valuing your opinion. This helps you build people resources you can count on for help and helps you plan to get out from under a challenge. Growing up my Mom would have me put some Philadelphia cream cheese, some raspberry jelly and some saltines on a plate to eat. The idea was to make the first and last bite just as good by managing the making. After a while we could do it almost without thinking. Train yourself.
- Look for a challenging project that uses some of your weaker skills. Volunteer for it and work to improve those skills. Needing to accomplish the task will make you work on those skills by researching, learning and practicing them. A year after coming back from cancer I asked to go into sales when I was between projects. I had no idea what sales was about and thought it would be challenging to figure out how work was won and how a bid was put together. It turned out that I enjoyed “connecting the dots” in real time with a client to build trust more than I liked doing the actual project. After six months a client said they would award us two platforms if I managed them, so I was pulled out of sales but by then I knew I could do it and enjoy it. This knowledge helped set Mustang up for success.
- Develop a broad array of friends, colleagues and acquaintances based on trust and performance. Once they know they can trust what you say and have seen you take care of your business they will be there to help you when needed. My neighbor across the street was high up at British Petroleum (BP) and watched as Mustang grew from scratch. We did things together in the neighborhood and in the Boy Scouts but never crossed paths at work. One day he invited me over to meet a colleague of his at BP and told me later that he was a good person to know. He would get us together every six to nine months for a meal or an activity. Three years later BP was Exxon’s partner on a record breaking deepwater project that was our first bid to Exxon. We had met with Exxon and they told us that they wanted to do this project the “Mustang-way” in order to benchmark better for cost, schedule, quality and safety. However, the bid package they sent out was onerous and would not allow us to Mustang-ize the project. So, I sent in a non-conforming bid figuring that they really did not want to change and there was minimal chance that they would give this world class project to our size company.
My neighbor’s friend was the BP representative in the Exxon office and on the bid evaluation team. He called to tell me that our bid was in the trash can because it looked like we were overloaded with work. That was pretty cool that they did not just throw us out for not complying with their bid requirements. I convinced him otherwise and sent in an addendum to our bid. Two more times he called to say we were in the trash can and I pulled us out. We won that project and it was on the cutting edge for deepwater design, resulting in us becoming the leader in deepwater and being involved in over 50% of the projects worldwide.
- Get experience in everything you can so that you can draw upon it later. Hobbies and community activities will add variety to things you know that may be used later to help you overcome a challenge at work or in your family. I was in charge of Division II of the Sam Houston Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America when they asked me to take over fundraising for the Friends of Scouting program because the oil industry was in a downturn and they were struggling to raise $600,000. I said no twice but they were persistent, so I took it on even though fundraising did not appeal to me…especially soliciting from friends and family of the scouts. Their normal program was to have a meeting once a month in the basement of the scout center and beat people up for being behind in their fundraising effort. 60% of the money would come in November and December so this was a tough year long struggle with a short break over the summer for camping and high adventure activities. I moved the monthly meeting to a country club with a nice environment and brought my marketing team in to establish the theme of building a fire with flint and steel. At the first meeting we did a skit on preparing the materials for the fire, striking the spark, billowing smoke and then…FIRE! We had a hat for each step and a fireman’s hat that would signify that you were having trouble and needed help building the fire.
At the monthly report out meeting each district team would come forward and put on the hat that signified where they were in their fundraising effort. Then they would share their numbers and two things they had done that worked well. My marketing team always had a new branded goodie for the teams to take back with them to help build enthusiasm. This cross-fertilization of ideas helped everyone stay ahead of plan until the fourth month. A team put on the fireman’s hat and explained their situation. I was blown away when another team that was way ahead stood up and said they would help during the next month…and they caught them up! The next year I changed the schedule to complete the fundraising for a celebratory dinner in the middle of May. This would free the leadership up to do program activities in the summer and recruiting/advancement in the fall. We did it and cracked $1,000,000 in fundraising. The Boy Scouts then took this program nationally.
I took the program back to Mustang, renamed it Full Throttle and used it to get our six different sales teams helping each other with great success.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would like to inspire a “Making Heroes” mentality in everyone. This would mean that they are other-oriented and working hard to make the people they come in contact with successful. It is bringing the “Golden Rule of doing unto to others as you would have them do unto you” to all aspects of each person’s life. This would result in more smiling as well as making positive memories that would spiral attitudes up and build strong productive teams at work and in the community.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
I’d like to visit with Allan Mullaly, who is featured in the book American Icon. He turned around the staid and complacent behemoth Boeing and was set to reap the reward. He was looking forward to watching his team create the 787 Dreamliner. It was time to make some great positive memories with his people, his suppliers and the awaiting public. However, Ford Motor Company was in dire straits and beckoned him to bring his talents to change a very “siloed” and “me-first” culture that hid problems under layers of bureaucracy.
Alan brought transparency, trust and accountability to the Ford team while streamlining it into an un-siloed matrix organization…super tough job for an “outsider” at Ford. Once Ford was back to making strong profits he saw the old organization and attributes start creeping back in. Alan lamented the fact that the institutional memory was short, and they did not know how to stay lean in the good times…thus creating the destiny of another cycle in the future of going down to get lean.
Staying lean in good times takes the same discipline and habits that are required to build a resilient organization. The ability to stay lean in the good times is a total game-changer for any company.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
CultureCodeChampions.com, or CultureCodeChampionsPodcast.com
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!