Turning Around GM

Ed Whitacre: How did the automobile industry get into trouble? It’s a good question. I think it happened over a relatively short period of time. But I think, in GM’s case, they weren't building a quality product. They refused to modify their structure. Their expenses were really more than their revenues, and over a short period of time, if you don’t sell many cars you don’t get much revenue, your expenses are there, you run out of money and you go into bankruptcy. And that’s what happened.

Well, my strategy to turn around GM really was quite simple. And I say my strategy, it was the strategy of me and the top management team we put in place. And it’s mostly common sense, I think, but the first thing is you have to define what you want to do. And General Motors, I thought, had kind of lost its way and didn’t know what its mission was. And so we decided very early on that what we did as a company was design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles. That’s a pretty easy strategy to articulate. We did that to all the employees. We spent a lot of time with all the employees of GM saying, look, we design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles. We don’t do anything else. Everything else is sort of superfluous to that; let’s focus on that. 

We also did some other things. We put in the right management team. We did away with a matrix organization and a matrix, as you know, is where you have multiple bosses and, therefore, you have no boss because you don’t know which one to listen to. So we did away with the matrix management and set up clean lines of organization. We tried to eliminate some bureaucracy. We empowered the people. We gave people the authority and responsibility to do a specific job. We held them accountable for that. I think just common sense management things. And they worked.

The workforce at GM was pretty disheartened as you can imagine. You’ve just come out of bankruptcy. You don’t know what the future holds. You’re being called “Government Motors” by everybody. In some cases your neighbors won’t speak to you because you’re in bankruptcy. You're embarrassed about going home or going to the grocery store. Some of your friends aren't your friends anymore. But there was one thing that really stood out to me and that is, the GM employees wanted to prove to everybody, hey, we’re not bad. We’re real good. Give us a chance, we’ll show you what we can do. And, by golly, they did. 

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

The workforce at GM was pretty disheartened when the company hit hard times during the recent recession. And yet, GM employees wanted to prove to everybody that they could design, build and sell the world's best vehicles. And, by golly, they did.

Understand your own mind and goals via bullet journaling

Journaling can help you materialize your ambitions.

  • Organizing your thoughts can help you plan and achieve goals that might otherwise seen unobtainable.
  • The Bullet Journal method, in particular, can reduce clutter in your life by helping you visualize your future.
  • One way to view your journal might be less of a narrative and more of a timeline of decisions.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Car culture and suburban sprawl create rifts in society, claims study

New research links urban planning and political polarization.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
  • Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
  • People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
Keep reading Show less