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Ford CEO Alan Mulally personally delivers a car to Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer in 2011. (Microsoft photo)

Microsoft is expected to announce its long-awaited internal reorganization as early as tomorrow, shaking up its executive ranks and divisional structure in a bid to make itself more nimble in its new world of “devices and services.”

One of the most interesting tidbits in advance is the word that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been looking to Ford CEO Alan Mulally for inspiration. Here’s how Mulally explained it in an email to AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher.

While we clearly are not part of any Microsoft reorganization or its business operations, we have shared with Steve — as we have with many others who have asked — the elements of the Ford business transformation, including the importance of having a compelling vision and the relentless implementation of a plan that delivers the vision. A key part of the Ford transformation, as you know, has been everyone working together, with an organizational structure and operations absolutely focused on delivering the plan.

The Ford CEO and former Boeing Commercial Airplanes president has many fans around the Seattle region, and Ballmer is clearly one. The Microsoft CEO grew up in the Detroit area, and his dad worked at Ford, which is now a Microsoft partner.

But what did Ford’s reorg actually do, and what might Ballmer learn from it? A 2010 Forbes piece by three Bain & Co. consultants explains the basics of the automaker’s transformation.

Along the way they decided to reorganize the company, moving from a structure based on regional business units to a global matrix of functions and geographies. This new structure enabled Ford’s leadership team to make some of those critical decisions better and faster–creating global car platforms, for instance, which had been painfully difficult under the old structure.

Replace Ford’s “regional business units” with Microsoft’s corporate divisions, and that’s a pretty good summary of what the Redmond company seems to be attempting.

But Ford actually went further than that, significantly streamlining its business. As the Forbes article explains, “They divested non-core brands such as Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, reduced the number of production platforms, began consolidating both suppliers and dealers and so on.”

Applied to Microsoft, that approach would be music to the ears of some investors and employees who have called for the company to sell off divisions and focus more on its core strengths. In May, longtime analyst Rick Sherlund said Microsoft should consider selling its Xbox and Bing businesses.

However, that still seems unlikely. This is where the parallels between Microsoft and Ford will probably end. But it will be fascinating to see just how far Ballmer goes in his attempt to shake things up. Stay tuned, the next day or so should be worth watching.

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Comments

  • A

    I’ve always seen the parallels between Ford in 2007 and Microsoft in 2012. Had a prediction Mulally would return to Seattle to return Microsoft to greatness after his tenure at Ford. If Steve is proactively following those lessons more power to him and Microsoft.

    Btw. Steve drives a Lincoln. With Microsoft Sync.

  • Guest

    Pretty sad when MS has to take advice from Detroit. I guess “the most epic year in MS’s history” that Steve promised for 2013 didn’t pan out, like so many of his predictions. Fire Ballmer. Fire the board. Start over.

  • Guest

    Didn’t know that SteveB was from Detroit or that his father worked for Ford.

    Explains a lot: Microsoft looks a lot like Detroit in the 80s and 00s.

    The out of touch arrogance of management.

    Treating the workers like crap while the managers get rich for being incompetent.

    The “don’t let me catch you using anyone else’s product” to the point of competitive ignorance.

    The clunky products that frustrate people.

    The fact that no one actually buys the products because they want to but because they have to (ie lowest cost).

    The “turnaround” of Ford is bogus: their “success” is they managed only to be badly run rather than disastrously run (like GM and Chrysler). American car companies still make horrible products and I don’t know a single person that drives or would drive an American car.

    Following Ford’s lead is just another sign of impending disaster.

    I’m worried that following Ford is going to lead to another similarity soon: massive layoffs that decimate the local economy like we saw with Ford and others in the 80s. We don’t want Redmond to be the next Detroit.

    • Guest

      Didn’t know that? Crap, even by troll standards you’re ignorant.

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