Thursday, March 20, 2014

GM's Cowardly Approach

kdmgmblogIs GM, one of America’s largest and most treasured companies, losing its swagger?   Mary Barra, its new CEO, decided to release an employee video to the press on the recall issue, rather than face the media head-on…or risk a town meeting with customers, their families and the American public to which the press were invited.

In this transparent world, isn’t what she did cowardly?  What is she waiting for?  The logical conclusion in this situation is that she has something to hide.  Not a great role model.  It is particularly dangerous for a huge business dependent on trust to risk destroying that trust.

Her video, while unorthodox, had both good and bad in it. She finally admits that “terrible things happened” but doesn’t specify what they are.  Why not be specific about the tragedy of the deaths.  One would think that, as a more than 30-year employee, she could have added further perspective to her assertion that “something went wrong with our process in this instance.”  Shouldn’t she have a clue about what the “something” was?  Was it arrogance? Fear? Complacency?  She did reiterate the importance of putting customers first, but doesn’t explain why, over the years, this ignition safety factor didn’t merit swift attention – a clear customer issue.

She also says, “We will be better because of this tragic situation, if we seize the opportunity.”  Personally, I think it is very cold to characterize a situation which resulted in deaths and injuries as an “opportunity,” even though I believe she means well.  It should be about GM’s duty, a moral obligation that was callously and consciously abrogated.

Overall, I think that her video fell short in detailing the steps GM is adopting to prevent a recurrence of the problems that led to this crisis.   Sending out letters and providing a customer service hotline alone just aren’t significant enough to transform regret into a new way of doing business.