Positive Post of the Day: GM Changes Its Culture Edition

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

“Culture change is not simple to do,” GM CEO Fritz Henderson tells Bloomberg. “In the end, if you reinforce what you want in how you behave and how you act, the organization picks it up.” But Fritz isn’t merely turning GM around by example. “You’ve got to get your people involved,” he explains. “You’ve got to get your leadership involved, you have to be consistent, you have to be simple and have everyone understand what you’re trying to get accomplished.” And just what is Henderson trying to accomplish? Nothing less than a total change in perspective . . . in 50 employees.

Bloomberg breaks down Fritz’s plan to empower its “change agents” thusly:

The 50 to 60 participants in the change program first met last week, Henderson said. Their role is to reinforce with peers and subordinates the importance of Henderson’s “four pillars” of the new GM: speed, product and customer focus, accountability and risk taking.

Managers and executives were chosen for the role because they embody the behaviors sought from all employees, said Henderson, a 25-year GM veteran who previously served as chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

In short, GM is stigmatizing change by placing full responsibility on the shoulders of 50 hand-picked “change agents,” and empowering them to annoy and condescend to their co-workers. Oh, and there’s one more element to Fritz Henderson’s si se puede initiative . . .

GM has accelerated top-level decisions, with a nine-member executive team now meeting weekly instead of once a month, Henderson said. The group scrapped a planned Buick sport-utility vehicle on Aug. 14, eight days after the auto was unveiled to criticism from consumers, analysts and journalists.

Twitter-obsessed knee-jerkers and their “change agent” vanguard thrashing New GM into a deeper, harder frenzy absolutely sounds like a recipe for restoring GM’s lost focus. The fact that the social media-inspired Vuick-slaying did not elicit any reflection on GM’s larger CUV bloat problem proves it. Speeding up a twitchy, directionless organization yields more vigorous thrashing, as well as a genuine purpose and direction. Who can’t wait for GM’s planned IPO?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

More by Edward Niedermeyer

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 18 comments
  • Mach1 Mach1 on Sep 02, 2009

    Change a"corporate culture" with 50 "change agents" and 4 (or is it 5) "slogans" -- you have got to be kidding! Ford started their culture change in the early '80s - I know because I was there and involved. When we first raised the issue of the "Ford Culture" to management we were told that Ford did not even have a "corporate culture". From that point on it was an up hill struggle with many false starts and backsliding to old ways of doing things, Even when things were going well, that old culture was lurking just below the surface and would break through given the slightest opportunity. Ford has made progress but there are still problems that aren't totally resolved. WE also took a horrific detour under Jac's reign of terror. To change a culture means changing the way people interact with each other and the way they think. This is very difficult and not possible for many people who have been successful within one set of paradigms and who now need to make fundamental changes. To change a culture requires a number of conditions: 1) An honest and self incriminating assessment of what is wrong with the current culture. 85% of culture problems are systemic issues owned by senior management. It's not OK to say "I am OK and if we could just fix the workers, everything would be great!" 2) Management must agree that change is essential an come to a common vision for the new culture. If the leaders can't agree on the destination, there is no way that is where they will end up. 3) Management must commit a number of meaningful "uncharacteristic acts" to get the attention of the larger organization. This serves to reinforce the idea that this is not one of an endless series of corporate initiatives that flames brightly for a bit and then fades away yo make room for the next shooting star. 4) Management must be visibly 100% consistent with the new cultural values. The first time they revert to form the battle is lost. This also means they can't allow their underlings to do the dirty work for them. 5) People throughout the leadership at all levels who can't quickly adapt yo the new paradigms need to be moved aside. They need to be replaced by those with values more in line with the new direction. Most organizations have lots of these folks available but they are probably not the ones who have previously been on the corporate fast track. The worst thing would be to allow the old management to clone itself. If GM did these things, they could start the change process but it would take many years to fully implement and they may not have that much time left.

  • Rix Rix on Sep 03, 2009

    The 4 pillars of the new GM: 1. Government money 2. Lots of advertising to lipstick the pig 3. Fundamental misunderstimation of consumer preferences. 4. Replacing the old bean-counter CEO with a new bean-counter CEO 5. Shoddy accounting.(Correction, shoddy accounting has now been moved into a VEBA. There are still only four pillars.)

  • JK I grew up with Dodge trucks in the US, and now live in Turin, Italy, the home of Fiat. I don't think Italians view this as an Italian company either. There are constant news articles and protests about how stalantis is moving operations out of Italy. Jeep is strangely popular here though. I think last time I looked at stelantis's numbers, Jeep was the only thing saving them from big big problems.
  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.
Next