Harold "Red" Poling
BOB20 poling
Harold "Red" Poling with the Ford Taurus

Ford CEO 1990-93

Lutz says: "Tough, opinionated, uncompromising, he was of the school that held 'If you can't measure it, it doesn't exist.'"

Lutz grade: 271

In the world according to Poling, no project was too trivial to be questioned, no cost too low to be given a 20% cut, no outlay sufficiently justified to not be closely investigated for padding or outright deceit. It was financial micromanagement at its absolute worst. The theme of my financial recklessness was pressed home repeatedly. The tragedy of this type of bean-counter-ism is that besides applying the brakes to progress and being thoroughly demoralizing, it actually drives hidden waste and cost ... cost spent investigating, cost spent justifying, and cost driven by the clever troops finding an alternate way to get the job done.

I hated working for Red. It was sort of like Marine boot camp all over again. [But] Red taught me that the tough, uncompromising, unfeeling, almost nasty approach to initial cost and investment estimates could produce meaningful savings. It forced the planners to reexamine how much of the tooling and facilities could get reused, how many parts could be carried over from the past model, how many body styles and versions were really necessary as opposed to nice to have. The Poling approach served me well during my later tenure at Chrysler and my last tour at GM, although I was always at pains to leaven it with humor, engineering, and marketing judgment.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated June 04 2013 07:34 AM ET
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