GM Leader Drives Cultural Change, Innovation and Results

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Mary Barra GM CEOGeneral Motors (GM) historically has been known as a “staid” company and the prototypical “old boys” company. And its had its share of “challenges” ranging from uninspiring design to consumers feeling there was “built in obsolescence”; from being extremely difficult to sell to due to its purchasing philosophy to the ultimate disaster … being the face of the automotive bailout. Not exactly an example for innovation.

But the company is going through a renaissance due to its CEO, Mary Barra. According to an article in USA Today “the company she leads today is vastly different from the one she inherited.”

So, why talk about GM? GM is now an example of what we recently wrote about regarding innovation and the need for intellectual curiosity.

Consider these comments from the article which have lead to GM’s recipe for success:

  • The company is more “decisive, focused, responsive and responsible.”
  • “GM used to be all about sales volume and market share, now, if they don’t see a path to profitability and leadership, they get out. The goal is to sell fewer vehicles and make more money. It’s a new GM.”
  • The are “aggressively pursuing new technologies and developing businesses.”
  • “Shut down money losing operations.”
  • Put data from customers at the heard of its product development and manufacturing decisions.
  • Refuse to let problems fester and an understanding that bright ideas and catchy slogans are meaningless unless GM has the focus and finances to deliver on them.

The conclusion of the article was “The only liability was cultural issues that allowed them to pretend the bankruptcy had been because of the credit crisis, not management’s own bad decisions.”

What does GM have to do with the electrical industry (other than a major buyer)?
  • Consider your company’s culture, challenges and opportunities? Do you feel you are an innovator or is your culture an inhibitor?
  • How do internal staff (managers and employees), suppliers, salespeople (in the case of reps) and customers perceive your company’s culture? Your level of “innovation”? You as progressive?
  • Are you tentative in making “hard decisions” to the point that it drives you to manage, or execute, to accommodate your lowest common denominator?
  • Is your culture holding you back … if you are being honest with yourself?
  • Whom are the change agents within your company? Are they in positions to influence change? Are they listened to? Empowered?
  • Whom do you consider “best in class” to emulate? (and it can be for specific elements within a company and hence you view multiple companies as “best in class”, albeit for different things)
  • Do you have, and promote, intellectual curiosity to drive your company forward?

Culture is the key driver of innovation and we overviewed a process to consider.  If you want to accelerate profitability and achieve new heights, is your culture a secure foundation? Are there cracks in it or do you need to strengthen it?

And, as food for thought, in an industry where many companies appear similar (be they distributors or manufacturers within a product category) and “service” / people are company’s differences, isn’t your culture your true differentiator as these individuals are whom deliver for your customer … and you?

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Supporting manufacturers, distributors and others in the electrical channel with accelerating growth through business / channel strategy, marketing development and customer-focused market research. We generate "ideas that deliver results."

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