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Changing Corporate Culture – Is GM Ready?

June 2, 2009

Let the show begin!

Now that we’re all shareholders in General Motors, we should be rooting for its rebirth and eventual success. CEO Fritz Henderson stated at a news conference on Monday that “The GM that let too many down of you down is history.” Hmmmm. Let’s hope. On Lou Dobbs last night, GM CFO Ray Young expressed to Dobbs that a new corporate culture will emerge from the new General Motors.

Well, that would not only be wonderful but it is an absolute necessity. Corporate culture manifests itself over time, and in the case of GM it developed one that was not capable of effectively responding to escalating competition from the Japanese and South Koreans, not to mention European competitors.

At the core of corporate culture is leadership – how it is fostered, practiced and distributed within an organization. For a new GM to become truly globally competitive (and profitable), leadership from the top and throughout the company will have to be embraced.

Here are my Lessons for Changing Corporate Culture:

Lesson 1
Learn along the way. Don’t wait for perfection (or getting it right) before moving forward. But also learn from your mistakes.

Lesson 2
Go for quick wins to build and maintain momentum, but keep your eye on the big picture.

Lesson 3
Maintain a sense of urgency to keep everyone on their toes. Ask: “How are we doing, and how can we do better?”

Lesson 4
Remember that you’re never “there.” This means that you must have a clear and shared vision, to which everyone aspires.

Lesson 5
Learning and the generation and sharing of new knowledge enhances the organization’s capacity to thrive, and in turn this must become embedded in how it does business.

Lesson 6
Change is about people and how they not only adapt to circumstances but how they create their future together. Thus, people at all levels of the organization must play a role in the change process.

Lesson 7
Adopt a high-tech, high-touch philosophy towards the introduction of information technologies. Ensure that they mesh with the culture you wish to create. Above all, ensure that technology serves the organization and that people are not serving technology.

Lesson 8
When in doubt, take a deep breath and plunge ahead.

Best of luck Mr Henderson and Mr. Young…

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