By Mike Colias, Crain News Service
DETROIT (June 16, 2014) — General Motors Co. employees who showed up at a recent town hall meeting expecting to hear CEO Mary Ms. Barra talk about moving on from the company's embarrassing safety crisis were thrown a curveball.
Instead, they heard their new CEO lay down a manifesto for her stewardship of GM and an impassioned vow to sear the “painful” experience “permanently in our collective memories.”
She somberly ticked off findings from an internal investigation that revealed a toxic mix of misconduct, incompetence and inaction. And she disclosed plans to cut loose 15 employees, including a few highly regarded attorneys and officials from other historic GM power bases.
“This is not just another business crisis for GM,” Ms. Barra, 52, told the nearly 1,000 employees in the audience and tens of thousands more tuning in globally for a 15-minute speech that was tinged with anger and resolve.
“We aren't simply going to fix this and move on,” she said. “We are going to fix the failures in our system—that I promise.... But I never want to put this behind us.”
Simply put: Following a Chapter 11 reorganization that wiped out GM's debt—but not its organizational dysfunction—Ms. Barra doesn't want to let the latest crisis go to waste.
It has been five years since a government-appointed task force swooped in to reprogram GM for success after a 39-day bankruptcy. After that, it was outsider CEOs—first Ed Whitacre, then Dan Akerson—who took on the burden of knocking down silos and whittling away GM's notorious complexity and bureaucracy.
But the severe indictment of GM's culture woven through the 325-page report released last week by attorney Anton Valukas shows just how much farther Ms. Barra, a 33-year GM veteran, will be expected to carry the mantle.