DEARBORN, Mich. – Credited with transforming Steelcase from simply an office furniture maker to a reinventor of the American office space, former Steelcase CEO James Hackett has taken the reins at Ford.

Inspired by IDEO, a Silicon Valley-based design firm specializing in open-space designs, whom the company later forged a relationship with, Hackett and Steelcase "reinvented the workplace and redesigned America's offices," said Marc Weiser, managing director of RPM Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and San Francisco.

Steelcase recently teamed up with Microsoft on a series of new office spaces designed to foster creative thinking and collaboration.

Hackett thinks his history of innovation at Steelcase will help him turn around the number 2 U.S. automaker’s stock, which fell around 40 percent during the tenure of Ford’s previous CEO Mark Fields.

“Because of the nature of innovation, things are changing so quickly,” Hackett said in an interview with The Detroit News. “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.”

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Hackett’s mission in his new role will include reshaping Ford’s management structure, focusing on autonomous – or self-driving –  vehicles, and new business opportunities, including a ride-sharing venture.

At Steelcase, which Hackett lead for nearly two decades, Hackett is credited with overhauling the company’s corporate culture, de-emphasizing closed-in cubicle spaces, and guiding the company down a sustainable path. During the recession, he cut hundreds of jobs, but met with laid-off employees to provide networking help.


Steelcase Inc. makes seating, lighting, storage, furniture systems, interior architectural products, technology products and related products and services. The Grand Rapids company has 10,700 employees and manufacturing plants in Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Gaines Township, Michigan; Atlanta, Georgia; Athens, Alabama; City of Industry and Corona, California; High Point, North Carolina; Clymer and Dixonville, Pennsylvania; Okmulgee, Oklahoma; and Tijuana, Mexico. Divisions include Coalesse, Turnstone, Steelcase Health, Details and Vectra. Annual sales for fiscal 2017 were reported as $3.032 billion in March 2017.