Sorry About the Understatement!

In a recent Post, I recalled a story from Maryann Keller’s Rude Awakening: The Rise, Fall, and Struggle for Recovery of General Motors about the extreme deference paid to GM middle managers. I did it from memory, but ordered the book anyway. I got the stocked refrigerator and the torn-out hotel room wall part right (mostly—it was soft drinks, not beer), but had forgotten the story that preceded it—which made my little vignette small change by comparison. An exec reported this to Ms Keller about a not-atypical incident that marked his more junior days as a GM staffer:

“When [the assistant general sales manager] would fly in from the Chevrolet Central Office in Kansas City, I was assigned to stand outside the door of the Muehlenbach Hotel in a snowstorm and I was not to move, because whenever he showed up, I had to be there to open the door. We bought the elevator and blocked it off so he’d have an elevator to go to. We had somebody assigned to stand outside his room all day to take his shirts to the laundry and perform other tasks. And—this is true—we had learned that he had to have his morning orange juice a certain temperature, so we had somebody in the kitchen every day who tested the orange juice with a thermometer.” [My italics.]

NB: Pondering Senator Obama’s recently announced national security team and the Big Three execs returning with their begging bowls to D.C. this week, this thought occurred: While autoworld’s Big Three CEOs took home about $40 million in compensation for their individually and collectively disastrous performance in 2007, the combined pay for the Big Four Generals responsible for our global security (military heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps) was about $1 million!

Tom Peters posted this on December 1, 2008, in Markets.
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