Last week, I shared with the community a possible vision for Jewish Portland. It is not a subtle change – in many ways it is a revolutionary approach to Jewish life today. During this transformative time when definitions of Jewish community, Jewish peoplehood, and Judaism continue to be reexamined and challenged, we must recognize and admit that our Jewish communal organizations must change in dramatic ways. We need to do more than re-brand Jewish communal life – we must be proactive and reinvent our community for today and beyond.
Jewish NewCo (its name for discussion purposes) is one potential model to do this. But many will say (and have said), “Why should we do this? How can we do this? Has this ever been done before? And will it work?” All legitimate questions.
As I often like to do, let me share an example that I believe has many correlations.
In 2006, Alan Mullaly left his position as CEO of Boeing to take the top leadership position at Ford (let’s not dwell on the automaker’s founder’s past). At the time, the company basically mortgaged everything it could, including the rights to its famous blue oval logo, to raise the money necessary to fund a turnaround through difficult economic times. That resulted in an unbelievable $30 billion+ debt. It worked! Ford was able to continue funding product development through the worst of the economic downturn. And today, it is a success story with huge profits and an increasing market share. Mullaly created an organization that works because it is “One Ford.”
The “One Ford” approach is deceptively simple – it is about people “working together for the good of all of us.” In other words, run Ford as one company, with one set of products.
That might sound easy, but in practice, it was terribly complicated. Ford had 97 different automobile models under several different brands (each feeling independent from the other). They eventually reduced the total number of "nameplates" to close to 20. Fewer brands mean more focus in improving the quality of engineering.
"Brands" and "nameplates" in this context refer to model lines – for instance, while there are probably a dozen different variations of the new Ford Focus for different markets around the world, they all have many parts in common, can be produced on identical assembly lines, and came out of one design and engineering program.
That sounds like a sensible approach, but for years, that is not how it worked.
This, together with different consumer priorities in different parts of the world, led automakers to fragment their offerings over the years. For a long time, the Ford Focus sold in Europe was a completely different car from the one sold in the United States. Most automakers do this, to some extent. The Honda Accord you will find at a dealer in Germany, for instance, looks very different from the one sold here. In fact, it's a completely different car. On the other hand, a Toyota Corolla is a Toyota Corolla, no matter where you go – despite local variations and different versions (hatchback, sedan, coupe, wagon), the basic engineering and production requirements are the same.
Ford now has fewer models, each of which is sold in more markets. This reduces their fixed costs andincreases focus and refinement on each design.
After reading Ford’s website, here is their basic business strategy embodied in their “One Ford” plan:
- Aggressively restructure to operate profitably at the current demand and changing model mix.
- Accelerate development of new products customers want and value.
- Finance our plan and improve our balance sheet.
- Work together effectively as one team.
Building on this plan, “One Ford” encourages focus, teamwork and a single global approach toward a common definition of success. It emphasizes the importance of working together as one team to achieve automotive leadership, which is measured by the satisfaction of their customers, employees and essential business partners, such as dealers, investors, suppliers, and the communities in which they operate.
Ford is a multi-billion dollar business. Our Jewish community is a $29 million+ business (this does not include all aspects of Cedar Sinai Park). It is correct to say that Ford was already a single company. Our Jewish community has multiple organizations with multiple boards of directors. Yet, it was not until they developed the “One Ford” plan that the automaker succeeded in today’s marketplace.
I understand that making cars is not building a Jewish community. However in many ways, we are in the same business. We want more (satisfied) “customers” who continue to come back. We want to provide and create inspiring “products and services” that people desire. We have the opportunity for more “shared platforms” to reduce fixed costs. And we can work more effectively as a Jewish communal team. The one poignant difference between Ford and our Jewish community today is whether we have the true desire and willingness to work together for the good of ALL of us.
To paraphrase the “One Ford “ plan – the goal of Jewish NewCo is to align our communal efforts toward a common definition of success by having ONE team and ONE communal plan for an exciting, vibrant Jewish community for all.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and comments.
PS – Mazel tov to Hesed Shel Emet Burial Society Project, developed by Cedar Sinai Park in collaboration with Jewish community agencies, synagogues and local funeral homes (in particular, Holman’s), which has been awarded the Jewish Programming Award by the Association of Jewish Aging Services of North America. We are particularly pleased to recognize the leadership and passion of Cedar Sinai Park’s Debbi Bodie whose energy and enthusiasm brought this project into being.