Saturday, September 16, 2006

Wanna Buy a Ford?

We all saw it coming. You can't drive a vehicle today, or over the past 10 years, and not notice the trend: extreme. Hummers and Ford Expeditions looming over Kia's, Huyndai's and Mini-Coopers. In yesterday's NYT's Hummer is offering 0% financing for 60 months of Hummer payments!! While the Toyota Prius' still has a waiting list. I'm amazed in California to see all the big SUV 4-wheel drives on the road, where there is no severe weather like snow and ice, requiring chains and 4-wheel drive. Yet I have also seen some of those European "Smart" cars on the road, tiny and eficient.
So, when Ford announced yesterday that is was buying out contracts and closing plants, I was not surprised. Automakers cannot compete paying $64.90 per/hour wages and benefits in a global world, especially making gas guzzlers that increasing segments of the market have no use for.
It's a recurring theme in "The Long Tail; why the future of business is selling less of more" by Chris Anderson. The big-box operations have had their day. They are costly, bulky, slow-responding, and redundant. I do not need a bookstore when I have access to Amazon. Now, the book and Anderson's thinking is not so harsh as that. There is a place for bricks and mortar operations, but they must be lean, flexible and strategic.
How excited would you be today to buy a Ford dealership in some suburb? How about a Sears store in a big mall? These operations, once vital to the economy, have had their day. Theaters were challenged by video rental, challenged by Blockbuster, challenged by Netflicks soon to be challenged by..........
I think, feel the same way about the bureacratic structures of the church, of denominations and middle judicatories. They did have their time and place, when transportation and communication was more difficult. They centralized operations, support, communication and decision-making. But that day is fading. The rise of the para-church initiatives and missions is a genuine challenge to headquarter's run operations. Better communication, responsive structures, and cost efficiencies pose a real question to the on-going existence of big-box operations centrally located in expensive locations that are hard to get to.
My plea is not the elimination of structure, but the updating and streamlining of it. Otherwise, it's gonna look like a big Ford truck on a showroom lot.


At 9:06 PM , Blogger Diana said...

Thanks, Don, for your usual thought-provoking commentary and questioning of the status quo. We need it! I have joined the blogging revolution, although mine tends to the musing and family-oriented rather than editorializing on business/government/church. That could always change, however! :>)


At 6:12 AM , Anonymous Kent said...

Having not read the book you enthusiastically endorse I wonder if all big box experiences are doomed? I went to IKEA yesterday and they seemed to be doing quite nicely. The local AMC 30 theaters are fully and charging about $9.00 a movie.

Amazon is a big box, but they do not act like the tradional big box vendors. Ford does not think with a quick and nimble culture. I am not sure I want to buy a car from boutique, the price may be out of my scope. And I am not sure I would fit well into a smart car.

As for judicatory structures in the church, I am not sure they can change. They have too much veasted the old ways and see alternatives as threatening. I wonder if they truly believe they are leading? Who is following?

At 6:14 AM , Anonymous kent said...

Oh BTW the title for post may ought to have been "Wanna Buy Ford?"


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