Fritz Henderson got a thumbs-up from the Board of Directors just days ago, but it seems that Chairman Ed Whitacre doesn’t want anyone to get comfortable. The Freep‘s Tom Walsh just posted a column describing GM execs as “rattled” by Whitacre’s recent revelation that at the New GM executives must earn their keep.
On Wednesday, Whitacre told a group of GM salaried staff — in one of several “diagonal slice” meetings, so called because they mix people from all levels — that he expects to see lots of changes in the next 12 weeks. Changes every day.
So, is the party over? Surely GM’s brass knew that there would be some accountability, someday. Right?
‘I found it stunning,’ one GM executive told me Thursday, after hearing that Whitacre had spoken so pointedly to the employee group about the urgency of producing visible changes in 12 weeks . . . Another GM officer described Whitacre as ‘frighteningly direct’ in conversation, making it clear that every top executive’s job at the automaker is on the line, and that heads could roll in the next two or three months if there’s not significant progress in vehicle sales, market share and profitability.
Stunning? Frighteningly direct? Whitacre is merely doing the minimum required to get GM ready for an IPO planned for next summer. The White House wants out of GM, and the UAW would probably like to dump its equity as well. But who’s going to buy in if GM doesn’t radically turn itself around over the next 9 months?
And really, how are they going to turn sales and market share around? The problem with Whitacre’s scare-’em-into-competence approach is that all the incentive is to make GM look good in the short term. Which means temptation to cut corners on long-term strategy to pull off the IPO. The terrified reaction to Whitacre’s tough talk proves that GM culture change hasn’t changed. Will turmoil and turnover at the highest levels right now really make a difference in time for next Summer’s IPO?
The IPO delay watch begins now.