Edward E. Whitacre Jr. : “Give people more responsibility and authority deeper in the organization…”

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Edward E. Whitacre Jr. the new CEO and Chairman of GM says: "Give people more responsibility and authority deeper in the organization, and then hold them accountable."

General Motors needs a turnaround for  many morale lifting reasons in America and the world. The GM brands mean a lot in China, India,Brazil  and the world will cheer as GM revives.The management changes at GM have been rather drastic this time and there are high expectations for new Sales and Marketing Chief Susan Docherty who has long experience, starting as an intern in GM. Similarly, expectations are high for the relatively younger and second generation GM Executive  Mark Reuss   who has been named as head of operations for North America. These executives have long experience with GM and should be able to action the "deeper" organizational responsibility that Whitacre talks about.

I highlight "deeper"  in Whitacre's comments because that is one of those age old concepts of management and public administration that ensures results,relevance and accountability. For example,the effectiveness of American public administration,compared to many other countries, is really because of the highly de-centralized town governance structure with the Mayor and town leadership responsible for matters like law and order, education and the more mundane garbage removal.The intense and frequently critical "neighborhood" watch on leadership and their actions or inactions serves as great accountability with pretty effective corrections during local elections.

The "deeper in the organization" strategy is to give the responsibility and authority to the front lines as near the action as possible. In manufacturing, the worker should be authorized to stop a machine that may be malfunctioning and a customer rep on the phone should be authorized to try and resolve an unexpected customer  problem rather than simply going by the script. Empowered dealer managers will do a better job at GM as will the empowered local manufacturing managers in the many countries GM operates in. Simple,clear and compelling mission statements can help frontline managers decide on the spot, rather than waiting for Head Office, as Herb Kelleher did for Southwestern.

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