Friday, June 20, 2014

Just How Bizarre is General Motors' Much-Maligned "Culture"?

Ask an engineer who worked there for nearly a year right before the company went bankrupt.

By A Texas Reader

One of my grad school classmates was an alumnus of the University of Michigan. Tom graduated with a degree in English. After graduation, he got a job in the purchasing department of GM. Specifically, it was with the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission group's experimental division. After a few years with GM, he decided to return to university. That's when I met him at the University of Texas.

Tom had no engineering background. But he did have connections. And that's what got him the job with GM.

Tom's father was a friend and neighbor of Lloyd Reuss, former president of General Motors. Lloyd got Tom the job.

Lloyd's son Mark is now President of GM.

Nothing has changed with GM's culture in the past 25 years. I finished grad school in 1991. It is now 2014. GM is still practicing the same nepotism that it did when my classmate worked for GM over 25 years ago. GM's culture is still insular, parochial, and lacks sufficient diversity. Not diversity, insofar as race or national origin, but in terms of diversity of career backgrounds in its management ranks. After all, how could both a father and son become president of the same Fortune 100 company?

Contrast this with the Ford Motor Company. Ford went outside the automobile industry, and hired Alan Mulally, former head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It was Mulally's focus on "One Ford" product strategy has led Ford to record profits and increased market share around the globe.

Remember this when you read articles about the problems General Motors has had with faulty ignition switches in its cars.

It's the culture, stupid. Or rather, it's GM's management.

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