Could It Be This "Simple" #1?

In his superb (What’s new?) 2 June New York Times column, “The Quagmire Ahead,” David Brooks begins his assessment of the GM fiasco by citing an internal memo written in 1988 by EVP Elmer Johnson:

“We have vastly underestimated how deeply ingrained are the organizational and cultural rigidities that hamper our ability to execute.”

That quote reminds me of another, this one by Norberto Odebrecht, head of the Brazilian-based heavy-industrial conglomerate, Odebrecht:

“Data drawn from the real world attest to a fact that is beyond our control: Everything in existence tends to deteriorate.”

“Simple” fact: Accompanying GM’s longtime designation of “biggest” came Olympian accompanying “rigidities.” One is reminded of yet another quote, this from Walt Kelly’s Pogo:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Business schools, the always helpful whipping boys in my rants, focus on the “cool” FMS troika. (Finance-Marketing-Strategy.) And yet it is the internal organizational characteristics, MIA in B-schools (not sexy enough), that trip companies up. “Rigidities” that impede the ability to “execute” are the culprits behind shoddy performance in 9 out of 9.01 cases.

Toyota didn’t do in GM.
Honda didn’t do in GM.
Nissan didn’t do in GM.

GM did in GM.

This is not news.
It is, however, worth restating.
And I shall do so.
And again.
And then again.

We have met the enemy.
He is us.

(NB: Brooks’ analysis of the GM situation is frightening, and, I fear, accurate. Among other things, he suggests that we’ve put the foxes in charge of the chicken coop—e.g., same tired execs, same tired union bosses; and further distanced the company from outside winds.)

Tom Peters posted this on June 4, 2009, in Strategies.
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