Culture Change a True Challenge

Well, they’re at it again at GM (Government Motors). They’re grasping for straws as they’ve apparently tried everything else. They’re obviously running out of options.

The Board of Directions announced December 2 that they were accepting the resignation of new CEO Fritz Henderson. Polite translation means they dumped him and the reason readily emerged as they stated it was unhappy with the pace of the Detroit automaker’s turnaround since emerging from bankruptcy. Ed Whitacre, the company’s chairman, takes on the role of chief executive while GM searches for a new president and CEO.

The Associated Press created major headlines claiming that “New CEO Seeks Change in Culture at GM.” Apparently Whitacre, the former CEO of AT&T, Inc., announced that GM would be required to dump its stodgy hierarchical approach to decision making. He told employees that the bureaucracy needs to end, and they can take reasonable risks without the fear of being fired. “We want you to step up. We don’t want any bureaucracy. We’re not going to make it if you won’t take a risk.”

Personally, I think he’s right on the money. Who could possibly argue with that philosophy? However, I also think GM is a little late with this revelation. I’ve been doing supervisory training for this automotive giant on and off for the past 30 years and have grown to know the culture intimately. Trying to generate a culture change at this late date will be more challenging for GM than trying to turn around the proverbial battleship in a bathtub! While it looks great in print and sounds like a sound strategy, it should have been implemented decades ago. Bureaucracy is so embedded in this culture that it has become a way of life for GM leadership as well as the front-line employees who despise it!

Is there a lesson here for us? Absolutely! In today’s chaotic and unpredictable business environment, anyone who seeks survival, success and growth had better adapt an attitude and strategy of being much more open to the fine art of risk-taking. Those who can’t or choose not to will find themselves falling behind in no uncertain terms.

Can GM pull it off in these late stages? We can only hope so at this point for the remaining 266,000 employees who remain on the payroll for the time being.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

2 thoughts on “Culture Change a True Challenge

  1. I agree–it is a little late, but I suppose better late than never. With companies like GM figuring this out, my hope is that other companies will see this change and start adapting to the shift that’s occurred. The more that can take risks, try something new, begin to focus on quality over quantity, the better for our economy and our country. Great post. Thanks for the insight.

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