Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Mary Barra at GM

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning on new developments in the GM ignition switch scandal. According to the newspaper, 

For the first time within General Motors executives will be told of vehicle safety problems when they are first reported and are now expected to expand any potential recalls if they deem it necessary, Chief Executive Mary Barra said in an interview.  "The executive team can only expand, they can never make it smaller," Ms. Barra told The Wall Street Journal. "I am trying really hard to communicate that we have made great strides to reduce the bureaucracy within GM."

Barra's comments are certainly welcome, but a key point needs to be made here.  You can't simply order lower-level employees to report all safety issues to senior executives.    You have to create an environment and a culture where people feel comfortable bringing bad news to the boss.  Moreover, senior leaders need to recognize that some people will feel hesitant to share bad news.  Therefore, senior executives at GM need to become "problem finders" who actively seek the bad news.  They have to do more than just say that they have an open door.  They have to get out of their offices and dig for problems.  They have to become seekers, rather than just receivers of safety information. 

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