It doesn’t look like General Motors is going to get out of The Big Rut any time soon.The recent announcement that they would buy financing giant AmeriCredit Corp. for $3.5 billion is exactly the sort of monolithic, ROI-based move that will strengthen, not weaken, GM’s enthrallment to bureaucratic over-systematization.
When Ed Whitacre was first appointed to the position of chairman and CEO, it seemed unlikely that his background (a lifetime in AT&T, essentially) would bring the entrepreneurial changes that are so desperately needed to reintroduce the creativity and risk-taking necessary to take the lumbering organization back to Treadmill (let alone back to Predictable Success), and so it has proved. Although Mr Whitacre has developed a good rep internally for being open, accessible and transparent, this isn’t in itself enough to turn the company around.
De-personalizing the issue away from GM and Mr Whitacre for a moment, the fact is that for any organization to recover from The Big Rut (something that is incredibly difficult to do), big-splash, highly resource-heavy, marquee acquisitions are not only a distraction, but they are in fact amplifiers of the very thing that put the organization there in the first place – lumbering bureaucracy.
For signs that GM is back on the right track – by reversing its decline – look out for:
– Many smaller, light-weight, flexible, entrepreneurial acquisitions;
– Frequent announcements of bijou, boutique creative developments from throughout the organization;
– New, strong voices arising in all functional areas, providing a richness and diversity of thought;
– A lot of trial and error, and frequent mistakes, as entrepreneurial risk-taking is encouraged and rewarded;
– Many legacy activities being cancelled as a result of a serious re-appraisal of old processes and systems.
These things may yet happen – just don’t expect to see it anytime soon.