Ed Whitacre, GM, tilting and windmills…

Apr 7, 2010

There’s an exceptionally revealing story about GM in today’s Wall Street Journal (“GM’s Plodding Culture Vexes Impatient CEO”).In the article, GM’s CEOI, Ed Whitacre is portrayed as battling like crazy to make GM a more entrepreneurial, risk-taking, empowered organization – essentially (pretty much precisely) what needs to happen to take an organization out of Treadmill into Predictable Success.

Unfortunately, Mr Whitacre is doomed to failure. Why? Because GM isn’t in Treadmill – it’s deeply, deeply in The Big Rut.

The article intimates that Mr Whitacre’s non-‘corporate’ style – wearing jeans, popping up in cafeteria’s, giving colleagues a lift to work, looking people in the eye, canceling pointless meetings – will turn GM around. I’d love it to be true, but no one manager’s personal style (not even if it’s the CEO) will turn around an organization as big as GM and as deeply in The Big Rut.

When (and if) articles begin to appear about wholesale middle and upper management changes (meaning hundreds of people, not the handful that have been re-organized so far), then, and only then, might there be a glimmer of hope for GM.