New Ford CEO Jim Hackett: ‘I Like Big Problems’

Jim Hackett
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Newly-selected Ford CEO Jim Hackett, who will succeed Mark Fields effective June 1st, has demonstrated strong leadership abilities and a knack for innovation over the course of his two-decade-long tenure as CEO of Michigan-based office furniture company Steelcase. And, he seems eager to start to work innovating at the helm of Ford Motor Company.

“Because of the nature of innovation, things are changing so quickly,” Hackett told The Detroit News in an interview. “I like big problems. This is a big problem to solve in terms of the future of the transportation system — what it’s going to be like.”

One skill developed during Jim Hackett’s previous executive experience that could help in his new role is what IDEO CEO David Kelley has called a “penchant” for balancing investments in the core business vs. investments in new ideas. Under Hackett’s leadership, Steelcase invested heavily in IDEO, an international consulting firm, and the two CEOs forged a unique business relationship, The Detroit News reports. They even went as far as establishing a constant, live-feed audio link between IDEO in California and Steelcase in Michigan for real-time collaboration.

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Hackett is also widely acknowledged as someone who can make tough, critical business decisions. In 2014, MLive reported that the Steelcase CEO was credited for leading the company through its improbable turnaround, more-than-halving the number of production facilities and cutting 12,000 jobs – including that of the best man at his wedding. “It was really difficult because I genuinely felt the pain of everyone’s departure,” he said then.

In the months after Steelcase’s workforce reductions, the CEO met with hundreds of laid-off white collar workers to help with networking and iron out benefits issues.

Jim Hackett, now 62, spent a total of more than 30 years at Steelcase before leaving in 2014. He was the interim athletic director at the University of Michigan for more than a year, and joined Ford’s board of directors in 2013, before stepping down after being selected to head the automaker’s Smart Mobility subsidiary.

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Written by Aaron Brzozowski

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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