Bring the Best Minds
I have worked as a consultant to many companies and none were more complex than those in the auto industry. The most successful auto companies have developed strong collaborative cultures. They are led by managers who think systemically, combining product strategy with operational attention to quality and cost. American auto companies started to get into trouble when their leaders focused on cutting cost by sacrificing quality and increasing revenue by buying up companies. Furthermore, they alienated their unions, especially the UAW whose members identified more with the union than with GM. At a meeting I attended some years ago, a young GM manager told me that his parents, both UAW members, practically disowned him when he went into management.
The government cannot run GM operations, but it can make sure that it has the best possible leadership. One way to do this is to organize an advisory committee that is not dominated by financial types but which includes experts on auto companies like Professor John Paul MacDuffie of the Wharton School and on union-management collaboration, like Professor Charles Heckscher of Rutgers.
Let's bring together the best thinking about what it takes to revitalize GM together with representatives of top management, the unions and the government.
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