Given Ford's long history of palace revolts, the big concern when ex-Boeing executive Alan Mulally arrived in 2006 was that he would become the modern version of Bunkie Knudsen.
Knudsen, a one time General Motors stalwart, was named Ford's president in 1968 and promptly fell into Ford's treacherous political waters. It was axiomatic: Outsiders could not survive the wars waged in the executive suites of the Glass House.
But not only did Mulally survive, he changed the toxic culture.
A key moment in the transformation occurred at one of Mulally's famous Thursday meetings with executives. In 2006, Mark Fields, then president of the Americas, owned up to a problem that would delay production of a new vehicle. Fields was praised, not pilloried, by Mulally and was on the road to winning the CEO job in 2014. That one Thursday seemed to turn Ford toward more cohesiveness and collaboration.
So it was disheartening to learn that in the post-Mulally era, the infighting was back. There have long been many things to admire in Ford's product-focused, process-oriented, financially rigorous corporate culture. But energy-sapping fratricidal warfare was not one of them.
New CEO Jim Hackett is not quite a Ford newcomer, having served on the board of directors and run the company's mobility unit for over a year. But he would seem to be as vulnerable today as Mulally in 2006 and Knudsen in 1968.
Power struggles also muddle communications strategies. Lately, Ford's external communications have exposed the internal competition. News becomes a political tool rather policy guidance. Minor stuff is overplayed, important details overlooked and the company's perception distorted.
For example, Ford has paid a price for failing to provide a clear vision that knits together its very real efforts in autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing and EVs. The company's message to key constituents, including Wall Street, has been garbled.
It all has to stop. When Bill Ford — who now takes direct control over corporate communications — handed over his job to Mulally in 2006, he had Mulally's back, and he pointedly warned against the backbiting his family's company was famous for. It worked. He needs to make that a priority again.