GM Culture Crisis Case Study – A Tragedy and Missed Opportunity

jack_welch Change

The following thorough post is a combination of two prior guest posts to Switch & Shift plus additional updates after Mary Barra’s second appearance before a House subcommittee.

The Background

The GM ignition switch recall tragedy led to at least 13 deaths and was the result of 11 years of failure on many levels.  It’s a live case study on a sad culture crisis we all can and must learn from since culture is the most powerful force in organizations.  Rarely do we have a chance to pull back the covers and see a culture with some serious dysfunction from an organization that still accomplishes amazing work on a global scale in spite of it all.

10 Clear Principles for the 96% that Need Culture Change

If you want something new

I wrote a popular article about how 96% of respondents from a Strategy& / Katzenbach Center survey on culture and change management highlighted that culture change was needed in their organization in some form.  I criticized some of the over-simplified recommendations that accompanied the survey release but The Katzenbach Center came through with their recent high quality article and related video on 10 Principles for Leading Change Management.

All leaders need to understand these principles and it doesn’t matter if they are in a big corporation like General Motors or a small business on Main Street.

Success in Organizational Change: Work with Culture Instead of Against It

Hot Air Balloon

Photo Credit: David Cosand, Flickr – altered with quote

Organizational change programs often don’t deliver as promised; and that’s not only because they don’t align with the current culture. Many programs still have an industrial-age mindset. The ingredients: a linear view (reality can be planned for and big change requires big efforts), designed by an executive team (who order the others what to change), and rolled out top-down, creating resistance as expected – because it deviates from “the way people are used to do things around here.” Old-style change initiatives don’t make abstract values operational nor do they translate simple slogans into personal behavioral change. They don’t include and engage people to share their information and energy to co-create meaningful, practical change.

What if you let go of this old approach and mindset?

Values: Practice Makes More Perfect

Yogi Berra

The more I practice, the luckier I get. Gary Player

Practice is about applying an idea, belief or method rather than the theories related to it. Practice is also about repeatedly performing an activity to become skilled in it.

The value and benefit of practice is taken for granted for performers at the highest level in fields such as sport, music, and art. Can you imagine teams like the New York Yankees in baseball, Toronto Maple Leafs in ice hockey, Dallas Cowboys in American Football, Manchester United in soccer just turning up on match day? In the arts, would the cast of Cirque du Soleil or the dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet just turn up on the day of the performance? Even the Rolling Stones practice.