|Killing the Goose...|
Chapter 22: Designated Winners
No one I knew in 1984 had referred to the Large Car studio as Alpha since 1982. I should have known that it was a dead duck when Red Poling eschewed the name in his Design Center meeting with the troops. I found out eight years later that the thinking in upper management was the Alpha project was a miserable failure. Yes, Large Car studio did produce the cars that saved the company and set a trend that other automakers were trying to follow. But they took six years to develop. Ford was trying to produce high-quality cars in three years or less.
The top brass missed three vital facts:
1) It took three years to learn how to make world-class cars in three years or less. That was the point of instigating the Alpha program, to learn how to do it.
2) We spent zero time in documenting and evaluating what we did right and what we did wrong to reduce the three years after we stopped spinning our wheels to two years or less.
3) Fords highest paid executives equated pay to value, not what anyone involved in the project proved they were worth but what they were already being paid before the merit increase freeze. They never considered the pivotal contributions of anyone below pay grade 8.
Ford promoted the idea of teamwork borrowed from Toyota success stories and GM press releases about Saturn. An Orwellian example of how shallow the thinking was along these lines was a campaign throughout the Design Center of banners placed at two or three points along every corridor. They said, EXCITEMENT!, ENTHUSIASM!, TOYOTA!, and BENCHMARKING! in bold, exciting print. The irony of doing this in 1984 escaped managements attention.
Benchmarking was the new Ford catchword, the practice of identifying the best practices in the industry and emulating them. Toyota was our benchmark for just about everything. An American named Fred Demming set those benchmarks for Toyota with a rigorous program of documenting and evaluating everything it did right and wrong. Ford management never considered benchmarking within its own organization and never appreciated the value of anyone who wasnt an executive.
One of the most profound observations made in the Design Center came from an old guy named Vladic who spoke poor English with a thick Polish accent and pushed a broom for a living. He said, The best designs is in the clay ovens.
Vladic was right. Fords challenge was not to create great new cars but to create them in a way that they didnt end up melting in the ovens.
No single person designs a car; it takes a team. Not any team can design a world-class car; it takes a world-class team. Between 1982 and 1986 Large Car had a world-class team. On paper it looked as though Ray Everts was the leader because he was the Studio Exec. In practice, the studio had many leaders depending on the job that had to be done.
The most important job to be done was to mold the exceptional studio personnel into a cohesive working unit a team. The person who did that was not the Studio Exec Ray Everts or either of his Design Managers Dave Turner or Graham Bell who did a splendid job on various aspects of the Taurus design. It wasnt the clay modeling Manager Jim McBain, who turned out to be one of the best managers I ever worked for, or our top-notch Studio Engineer Bob Cieslowski. The most important leader in the studio was Greg Arceri, the Master Modeler who did much of McBains paperwork, joked a lot and called for most of the jingles.
Greg really did believe in the power of teamwork and he got the best out of the people who worked for him, mainly because he recognized what they could do and let them do it their way. He was intelligent, knowledgeable, outgoing and deeply involved in the issues that impacted Fords performance on the world stage as well as in the Design Center and Large Car Exterior. He was a charter member of the writing staff for the Design Centers monthly newspaper and a prolific letter writer.
If Greg thought the company was going in the wrong direction hed send off a letter to the executive in charge stating his concern, listing why it concerned him and what he thought could or should be done about it. He was usually right and always ahead of the executives he wrote to. They generally regarded him as a pain in the corporate ass. That didnt stop them from appropriating his most obvious good ideas as their own.
When Greg wrote to Jack Telnack about the need for a clear design vision statement, Jack replied that he had been thinking the same thing. A week or so later everyone in the Design Center got a copy of a Vision statement from Jack with portions of Gregs letter to him repeated verbatim. Gregs name was nowhere in Jacks statement.
One morning Greg called me into Jim McBains studio office where he and Ray Compau took turns doing McBains routine administrative chores. He was working on a team identity logo that would go on studio T-shirts if the troops were willing to pitch in to buy them. He wanted to know what I thought of the T-shirt idea and his various logo proposals. He had a sheet full of sketches. He had already decided on the name Team Taurus and he was playing with different lettering styles and ways of arranging the Ts for the best graphic effect.
I thought it was a terrific idea and I picked the logo that I liked the best although I was sure that any of our designers would come up with a better one to go on the actual T-shirts.
Greg called in other modelers to see what they thought of his sketches and the Team Taurus T-shirt then took to the floor asking everyone what they thought. The modelers, draftsmen and engineers were uniformly enthusiastic about Gregs plan but when it came to the designers the enthusiasm stopped at the Manager level.
Turner was lukewarm about the T-shirts and indifferent to the Team Taurus. Graham Bell wasnt interested in the T-shirts or the logo, any logo. Ray Everts literally turned up his nose. Instead of offering to design the T-shirts himself and buy them for everyone in the studio the way you would expect a wealthy design leader to do, he said that he couldnt wear cheap material next to his skin. He said that it was okay, though, for anyone else to buy them if they wanted to.
A couple of days later all Design Center personnel were summoned to a meeting in the showroom. Greg and I sat together a few rows back from the center. We listened to a polished Vision speech from Jack Telnack in which he shared the credit for the Taurus design with unnamed members of the Large Car studios. We then watched a Lou Veraldi slide show presentation.
In the middle of our Chief Engineers presentation Greg and I leaned forward, our eyes bulging and or ears ringing in disbelief at what we saw and heard.
Picture a neatly type, double spaced transparency on a theater-sized screen with professional-looking subject headings, paragraphs and bullet points. Now picture the words TEAM TAURUS in crudely drawn block letters squeezed into a space above the first bullet point. Thats what we saw as we heard Lou Veraldi read the items we were looking at while interjecting an occasional Team Taurus that wasnt there. He didnt say that Team Taurus was his idea but he made it sound as though it was his. He did not mention Greg Arceri.
Greg ended up doing the final design for the T-shirts. They were beautiful, with white lettering and trim on a blue background. Greg ordered them and sold them at cost. They became so popular that people throughout the Design Center wanted to buy them, including some of our top executives who wore them over their expensive dress shirts at Mafia picnics. Even Ray Everts bought one and wore it over his dress shirt at a picnic. Greg sold over six hundred of them but the buying frenzy became too much so he turned over the ordering and selling to a guy from the Metal Shop name John Consiglio. John sold over two thousand of them.
Eventually some shooters at World Headquarters decided that high quality Team Taurus jackets would be better than the T-shirts. They got a good deal somewhere and ordered them to be designed, manufactured and distributed to the people they thought deserved them. The designers and engineers in the Taurus Exterior and Interior studio were on the distribution list along with Jim McBain, Fritz Mayhew and Bob Zokus. Personnel executives in the Design Center as well as their secretaries and wives were on the list. Plant managers were on the list. Guys in Body Engineering and other places who did things like designing the rubber seals for the A-pillars and the inner panel for the roof were on the list. The draftsmen and modelers below pay grade 8 were not on the list.
Around this time Ford took the unprecedented step of promoting ten highly paid Sculptors to Master Modeler at the same time. Ford hadnt promoted anyone to the top of the modeling profession in so long that all of the Master Modelers I knew had gotten their titles in the 50s or 60s. Two of the new Masters, Vic DeBono and Bill Harbowey, were in our studio. The old and new Masters got together with Jim McBain and offered to pay for Team Taurus jackets out of their pockets but the modelers balked. It wasnt the money; it was the principle.
Some of us who werent on the list thought that if the company valued us as a team it should have acknowledged us as a team. All of us agreed that it wasnt fair for the Master Modelers to have to pay for the companys bad judgment. The issue proved to be moot because there was only so much money in Fords budget for this sort of thing and there werent enough jackets for us. When the Masters let the people in charge know that they werent going to accept them if their modelers didnt get them enough jackets suddenly available became for all of us.
Fords Team Taurus jacket giveaway turned into an internal PR fiasco. The first thing it did was to give an unequivocal demonstration of Fords wrongheaded evaluation system. The list showed everyone who it though was essential to the creation of the Taurus and who wasnt. The secondary effect was to piss off all of the real contributors to the Taurus design process who werent acknowledged. It also alienated everybody who took pride in the Taurus because they worked for the company that produced it and felt that they could have done as well as their Team Taurus counterparts if the company had assigned them to the studios. In short, the very concept of the Team Taurus jacket giveaway was elitists, shortsighted, hypercritical and stupid.
Twenty years in automotive design and in developing my own inventions when I wasnt working for the auto companies taught me that there were five fundamental components to product development:
1) Concept. A product proposal has to take into account everything that will be required to make it and sell it at a profit. If your concept is flawed you cant fix it. You have to come up with a different concept.
2) Design. This is where all of the aesthetic and feasibility issues have to come together. If they dont you might have to modify some aspect of the design for materials, manufacturing or cost.
3) Material Selection. Your concept and design might be good in theory but if you dont have the material you need to meet your manufacturing and use requirements you have to get another material. Ford engineers jokingly refer to the designers favorite material as the fabulous unobtainium.
4) Manufacturing. Its not enough to know that something can be manufactured. You have to have a manufacturing facility available with the personnel, equipment and know-how to do it.
5) Cost. Everything you do or fail to do in a timely, efferent manner from inception to sales cost money. You usually lose money by going straight to the bottom line and getting the cheapest, facilities, equipment, materials and labor you can find. All of these things have to be evaluated relative to your available funds, product goal and long term, overall profit potential. You dont always get what you pay for but you always pay for what you dont get when you need it.
Fords jacket giveaway proved that upper management had not bothered to reduce the millions of complex tasks required for any successful program into a simple analytical framework. The jackets themselves were designed poorly and the quality control was spotty. With some of the best graphic designers on the planet at its disposal, Ford opted to use outside contractors to design the brown-on-brown jackets as well as to make them. No Ford Blue. No Ford script. No sense of what Team Taurus meant to the people who made it a reality. This was more than an exercise in how to make enemies and alienate people. It was a microcosm of how Ford did business.
Ford tried to save money by outsourcing some of our most efficient operations to job shops that couldnt do them and using temps with marginal skills and no stake in our future. On paper it looked like it worked because the paper trail did not lead back to the Ford professionals in-house with the expertise to redo the jobs right. Meanwhile, Ford pumped billions of dollars into the facilities and equipment of independent contractors and staffed them at key positions with Ford experts to bring them up to speed. These contractors hired people without benefits and Ford rented them as needed.
The only way a company can buy the loyalty of its workers is by hiring them and giving them a fair share of its success. Ford tried to rent the loyalty of outsiders by the hour.
Ford had a budget for this, a budget for that and managers in thousands of disjointed, far-flung departments clawing like wild dogs to get bigger budgets for their departments. It had no intelligent way of assessing the cost effectiveness of how one department affected another or the value of any individual within any department relative to any program.
Ford relied on its conceptually flawed hiring and promotion practices to decide who its most valuable people were. The Design Center consistently had too many Os and EPs a sure sign to the men in the Glass House who knew nothing about design that the Design Centers performance reviews were grossly inflated. Therefore, pressure was constantly on our managers to lower performance reviews. It couldnt be done rationally without taking away undeserved Os that some people had always gotten so it was done irrationally by denying Os to deserving people who had never gotten them. When it came to drawing up the list for who deserved the Team Taurus jackets, the people making the decision were therefore clueless.
Vic Nacif and Joe Warren werent event in the Large Car Department and didnt do a lick of work on the Taurus project, but without them it would have flopped. Jim Biando didnt work in the studio either, but he designed a fixture that helped the modelers in every studio crank out faster wheels and wheel covers. Without Jims fixture one of the nicest wheel covers on the Sable wouldnt have existed .
Jim Biondos wheel fixture helped to make Leonard Testigusa a star. Leonard got the assignment of modeling a super-cool wheel cover with 73 turbo-like blades going around it designed by an older stylist name Dean Beck. Before Biondos fixture it would have taken forever to set up the job and index that many blades to get the spacing even. Leonard got the assignment just as the first Biondo fixture came into the studio.
Like most modelers, Leonard Testigusa had never done a wheel before and he was nervous about doing his first one. Id seen his work when we were in Small Car together so I knew that he had nothing to worry about. It took about fifteen minutes for me to show him the basics, two thirds of which had been incorporated in Biondos fixture. Leonard took if from there and never looked back. He did such a good job that he became the guy Ray Everts and Graham Bell wanted to do all of the wheels and wheel covers. He spent years doing mostly wheel covers and most of that time doing slightly modified version of the same one.
No one had ever seen anything like the speed and quality with which Leonard did his wheels. He impressed Jim McBain so much that McBain thought he was irreplaceable, although I dont think he ever got paid accordingly. The thinking there might have been that he couldnt do anything else as well as he did wheels, although I suspect that Ray Everts and Jim McBain were looking for excuses to downgrade all of their modelers who competed with their designated stars.
Large Car Exterior had too many designated stars before Leonard and I got there. Chuck Beudreu, my old friend from American Motors, was one of them. He hired into Ford in 77 as a designated winner and entered the Large Car Exterior studio as one in 79.
It didnt hit me that Beudreu and I were in competition until we ended up on opposite sides of a clay model working like speed demons. When I put in a large surface with hot clay I always worked as quickly as I could. I did it to get the best overall feel for what I had to do next with my wooden spline to take off excess clay before it got too hard. Beudreu never worked that way until now. The next thing I knew everyone in the studio had formed a circle around us and Beudreu was using his spline at the same frenetic pace when it wasnt necessary. I had to work just as quickly to keep up with him for the sake of the spectators.
I wasnt worried about loosing. In fact, I had a couple of big advantages over him. I had done the first model with Bud Magualdi that we were duplicating for cast and Beudreu thought that he was a better modeler than I was. The cast model didnt have to be accurate. It just had to look good, so with no hard points to worry about, we were dead even. Jim McBain walked from side to side with a huge grin on his face making provocative comments like, Now were going to see whos the best. Once I knew that I was in a head-to-head completion I proceeded accordingly, pulling out all of the stops to beat my friend on the other side of the car.
The competition did not follow though to a definitive conclusion. Ray Everts spent most of his time on my side and decided to add a design element to my side that wasnt on Beudreus. He wasnt interested in the competition. He was looking at a way to differentiate the Ford Taurus from the Mercury. He wanted to put a spear though my body side with an offset bevel that tapered from front to rear. If he had been standing on Beudreus side when the idea came to him, he probably would have asked him to make the change.
McBain was so impressed with Beudreus surface and the speed with which I transformed Everts idea into three-dimensional form in the first pass that he openly declared the contest a dead heat. He said that it was the most spectacular display of modeling skill that he had ever seen. I cringed at his remark because I could see that the spear wasnt everything it should have been especially toward the end. I knew that Ray Compau could see it, too, because he never took his eyes off of it.
When the excitement cooled and the crowd cleared I tried to get McBain too look at the flaw in the spear and give me a chance to fix it. It meant redoing the entire body side. The spear itself was perfect but it forced a nasty merger between the upper and lower surfaces behind it. Everts was never going to be able to get a spear exactly the way he wanted it, which was exactly the way I put it in. That was the nature of offset surfaces joined by a variable design element. You take your best guess at what it will require to make all three elements work together. You put it in. Then you see exactly where you have to make your adjustments and do so on the second pass. There wasnt going to be a second pass.
McBain wouldnt hear of changing a thing. He said that I was being too picky and that Ray Everts wanted both sides duplicated the way they were and cast immediately. I was horrified. Nobody could fix the problem without redoing the body side and nobody was going to do that if the objective was to cast the model in record time. The flaw was going to be cast in fiberglass. It might as well have been cast in stone with my name on it, although it wasnt a modeling flaw. It was a styling flaw. Nobody was ever going to see that.
Politic again. Everts spear was a great idea. It would have worked if given just a day or two to make it work. That wasnt an issue at the time. The final designs for the Ford Taurus and the Mercury version of the Taurus were not set. The Mercury didnt even have a name of its own, yet. Every time a designer put a new knife line or tapeline on either car all of the surfaces on both cars had to change anyway and Dave Turner applied knife-lines and tapelines hourly.
In the end, the spear went away because Dave Turner and Ray Everts, who were switching modelers every few days, never knew what was involved. They thought that they understood surfaces well enough to tell the modeler how to do it. When one modeler didnt work out they got another one until they decided that it couldnt be done.
I was not one of those modelers.
Turners assessment of my modeling skill went up and down like a barometer in springtime. He yanked me off of a half-skirt for the Sable because when I put on a piece of foil to check the highlights it was rounder than he told me to make it. I made it rounder so the highlights would be easier to read and I could go directly to what he wanted in the next ten minutes. He put Ray Compeu on the job. Ray did it in about ten minutes. Turner complemented him on how quickly and expertly he did it. Ray gave me an embarrassed look. He tried to tell Turner that it was no big thing, which it wasnt, because there was no guesswork involved. He could see what to do.
When we were zeroing in on the rear quarter of the Sable, Turner and Everts went though several modelers before they got to me. Again, the problem was not the modeling; it was the design direction. Instead of telling the modelers what he wanted, Turner told them how to do it. Id worked with him enough to understand what was happening so when he told me to add clay to a particular spot after going in circles for an hour I stopped arguing and started adding clay. To my consternation it looked at first as though it was working while Dave was standing there. But when he left I looked at it from all views and saw how it affected the rest of he body side. Thats I saw in the first place. I took clay off of where he told me to add it and added clay where the told me to leave the surface alone.
When he came back he gloated, See, I was right.
I smiled. Yeah Dave. You were right.
I never had a verbal row with Dave Turner again. My new nemesis was his counterpart Graham Bell, a native of Great Briton who had lived in the States for twelve years and still used words like petrol and cinema to impress the colonists. He still spelled color with a u. I called him on it. He stopped doing it. We never liked each other
At a certain point it became necessary to get more clay wheel proposals going than Leonard could handle. Chuck Norrow, a brand new graduate of Fords 1984 in-house modeling school, got one. A few weeks later I got another one.
To understand what happened with the black modelers careers from this point forward and how it led to our lawsuit against Ford you have to know a few things about Fords 84 modeling school. I was one of the schools chief advocates. Come to think of it, you have to go back to a committee that the Design Center set up after the meeting with Poling in 82, which led to the committee that recommended the school. That committee slipped my mind because it lasted for such a short time and accomplished so little. The idea was to continue the progress we made with Poling by setting up a permanent working group of Design Center employees with a cross section of members from management and the general salary roles; six chiefs and six Indians.
The group was called The Design Center Steering Committee. Ford hired an outside consulting firm to establish the parameters for the committee. An executive of the firm named Mike sat in on the first meeting as a nonvoting advisor. He outlined the principles of efficient committee size and composition, laid down a few rules for conducting the meeting then sat back and tried to interfere as little as possible.
I knew we were in deep doo-doo within the first ten minutes when I saw who was there, who wasnt and the issues that were raised. Fritzs secretary happily greeted everyone at the door. She was one of the two women in the meeting with Poling. She was bright and amicable. She knew everybody and she did her job efficiently but she recoiled in horror at any hint of conflict between management and the GSR. I didnt see Joe Warren, Vic Nacif or Jim Biando, three of the most important figures in the meeting with Ross and the meeting with Poling that led to so many breakthroughs in the Ford Design.
Except for Gail Halderman, the executives at the first meeting said very little. When Mike outlined the various ways the committee could be structured Halderman said that an all-management structure would be best. I disagreed. Mike agreed with me and everyone eventually went along with it. We decided that Jack Telnack would be the only management representative. We didnt want Matrix but we were stuck with him. That was the most we accomplished.
In our next meeting the only executive who showed up was Matrix. The new GSR members were mostly strong-willed designers, modelers, draftsmen and engineers who voted for the weakest member of the group as our chairman to make sure that none of the strong members would be in a position to set the agenda. That was the first order of business. The new chairman, a new Maser Modeler, never figured out why we voted for him. That was one of the reasons he got the job. Crucial subtleties in jockeying for real power within the committee went over his head.
During that meeting I got a sinking feeling in my stomach when a man from the Wood Shop made a safety issue his number one priority and someone else wanted to repave the parking lot. These issues could have been raised in another forum. Matrixs grin told me that I was right in thinking that the committee had been stacked to avoid getting anything substantial done. Once you raise a safety issue, nobody can ignore it. You eat up time talking about it and everything else takes a back seat. The parking lot was a perennial sore spot with the troops. Every couple of years the company went through the motions of repaving and restriping it. They did it so badly each time that the effort could only have been a smokescreen to divert attention from fundamental issues within the Design Center. But like safety, once somebody brought it up we had to spend the committees limited time dealing with it.
I was on the brink of despair when an engineer in his 60s named Frank Horenkamp said what I thought about safety and the parking lot. I looked at Matrix. He was frowning. When Frank followed up with the issue that both of us thought should be our first priority, the Personnel mans frown deepened. Frank wanted to talk about productivity. Matrix was only supposed to be an observer but when none of the members tried to shoot Frank down Matrix took it upon himself to do it.. Our new chairman sided with Matrix. He said that we should get back to safety in the Wood Shop. I sided with Frank.
The Design Center was supposed to be the most creative place in the company, yet we spent many thousands of man-hours working like mad to go in circles and then sitting around doing nothing while we waited for a new cycle plan to go into effect. We had leaders like Greg Arceri who got the most out of their people and no-cheat practices that some designers, modelers, draftsmen and engineers followed on their own to increase productivity. We also had people in the Design Center and elsewhere in the company who could be great assets in these fiends if given a chance to show it. The only product of this short-lived line of discussion was an agreement that we should set up an in-house clay modeling school and announce it to everyone in the company. Not everyone got the word .
Chuck Norrow was a designated winner. There were two of them from the modeling school. Larry Paluschak was the other one. Both of them were blond-haired, blue-eyed males who came to their respective studios with advanced star billing. They had a long way to go in technical skill to catch up to where the graduates of Schiloffs school were when we started modeling at Ford. Nevertheless, their star billing told everyone that they were ahead of Schiloffs black graduates in Fords perception of their potential. Calvin Morrison and I were the only ones left from Schiloffs school and no officer of the company who ran the school ever told us that they thought as much of us as they though of them.
Narrow and Paluschak were ahead of Charles Purnell, Charlie Leak, Lenis Hugely and George Rogers, too. Norrow was a born politician. Paluschak had a sailboat. Both of them had worked with mechanical drawings and precision tools at a Ford transmission and axel plant for six or seven years. They knew their way around standard fabrication equipment like band saws and sanders. The only way they could fail was to screw up spectacularly, inexcusably and more often than not .
As a backup to Dean Becks turbo wheel, which Leonard Testagusa modeled in countless iterations, Graham Bell designed a luxury wheel that had a better chance of being converted to the real thing. Deans turbo wheel was a better looking design but Grahams wheel, which looked like a roulette wheel with 63 gum-drop shaped slots was more feasible. It was also a beautiful wheel, which could make a qualitative difference in the Sables overall appearance if it could be modeled well enough in time to go into production. Jim McBain and I were the only people in the studio who believed it was possible.
Graham wasnt pleased about McBains decision to give the job to me. He grew less pleased by the hour as he looked for me to start throwing clay on the armature and model away like mad. One look at the design told me that this approach wasnt going to work. I had to think of a faster and better way to do it. When I couldnt think of one, I decided to get out of the studio for a while to clear my head. I walked down the hall and chatted with some friends I hadnt seen in a long time about their families and hobbies. A few minutes into my chat the answer came to me. I needed to make a sliding drag tool and a cookie cutter.
I spent the rest of the afternoon making the tools I need while Graham Bell bounced back and fourth from me to McBain complaining about my lack of progress. I ignored him. I had to ignore him to get the job done right. McBain just smiled at him and told him to relax. I dont know how hes going to do it, he told Graham, but its going to come together in time and youre going to like it.
The job did come together in time and in a way that allowed me to give it a fist-class finish. Thats the luxury wheel that ended up on the car. Graham was happy with the wheel. He was not happy with me.
The wheel that Chuck Narrow was assigned to do also made it into production. I set it up. I showed him how to do it and I did the work that he couldnt do. No problem. Narrow was a rookie modeler. I was a veteran. You cant reasonably expect a rookie to do the work of a veteran. You cant expect the rookie to get all of the credit, either. But as far as Graham Bell and Ray Everts were concerned, Narrow earned it. They saw what his work. They didnt see mine or Jim Biondos.
 Fords upper management assumed that every department had x-number of O, EP, E, SP and S performers. Facilities outside of the Design and Engineering complex in Dearborn used all five of them. SP was as low as you could go in the Design Center and in Body Engineering. Most Design Center departments had some Os and zero SPs.
 The schools design executives were Jack Telnack, Fritz Mayhew, Don Kopka, Gail Halderman and Dave Rees. The three clay modeling administrators for the program were Ray Campau. Dolph Painter and Harry Strickler. The volunteer teachers were Dave Conley, Gene Pelky, Les Jacobs, Phil Walker, Bill Kawalski, Scott Belknap and Gary Kubitsky