Management Turnover as Change Agent

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

GM's New Chairman Turned Interim CEO, Shows How to Take Charge

Ed Whitacre, GM’s chairman and now interim CEO, appears to be in the mold of Lee Iaccoca who took charge of Chrysler back when the government saved it the first time around. While Whitacre, a former head of AT&T, is no car guy like Iaccoca, he has quickly taken charge of the firm and instituted a number quick and major changes. He has already made a number of major changes in management, he has also been taking great strides to build up employee morale throughout the company. Automobile workers are beginning to get the sense there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. Today’s New York Times has a story by Bill Vlasic entitled, In the Changeover at G.M., a New Hands-on Attitude. Vlasic writes,

In his new role as chief executive of G.M. as well as chairman, a post he has held since July, Mr. Whitacre is focusing on shaking up the automaker’s famously bureaucratic culture by singling out individuals and giving them both the responsibility and authority to make things happen.

“The only place there was any really solid accountability here was right at the top,” said Mr. Whitacre, 68, delivering his blunt assessment of the corporate culture at G.M. in his soft-spoken Texas drawl.

“I want to make sure people understand that the responsibility for this company to be successful is not just with the C.E.O.,” he said. “It’s them.”

“My style is really just to say, ‘let’s get going,’ ” he added. “Let’s do something, let’s move, and let’s not be constrained by something that has happened in the past. Nobody is going to be fired for trying something new around here.”

Whitacre is showing CEOs around the country possible ways to make changes at companies faced with inertia and growing problems. His management style may have some inherent risks and his lack of automobile related expertise is a potential problem but he has shown what a strong and savvy CEO can do in a little amount of time. Stay tuned.

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