Category Archives:

accountability

GM’s Assessment of Its Mishandled Ignition Switch Recalls: What About the Leaders?

Last week, GM announced the findings of an independent, company-sponsored probe into its failure to address defective parts that resulted in 13 deaths over 11 years. The technical problem was an ignition switch that could move to accessory positions while driving, causing the power to be cut and power steering, power brakes and airbags to stop working. The managerial problem was that no one fixed it.

The writers of the report principally blamed GM’s culture for enabling this tragedy. 

  • Lack of accountability ‒ one cited example was the “GM salute”: a crossing of arms and pointing at others. The employees responsible for making the fixes, including engineering, legal and cross-functional committees, operated in silos and failed to set timetables or demand action 
  • Lack of urgency ‒ this behaviour is known internally as the “GM nod”: everyone agrees to a proposed plan of action, then leaves the room and does nothing”
  • Poor judgement ‒ the original switch failed to meet GM specifications, but was approved for production. Decisions were not assigned owners, therefore they weren’t made and no consequences were levied
  • Avoidance of raising Issues to leaders ‒ consumer complaints or internal reviews were not raised to the highest levels of leader. There are many references to employees failing to disclose critical pieces of information about the defect
  • Conflicting leadership priorities ‒ teams had differing views on competing mandates ‒ “cost is everything” and “cost is irrelevant when safety is an issue” 
Mary Barra Addressing the Recall Probe

Mary Barra, Chief Executive, communicated the investigation findings to all employees via video conference. She announced that 15 people had been fired for incompetence and negligence and 5 more had been disciplined because of their inaction. A new safety head had been hired into a more senior role than his predecessor and a new “Speak Up for Safety” program was being launched to encourage early reporting of safety issues.

Most of Mary’s comments focus on GM’s culture that enabled the shortfalls: “Fixing this is going to take more than getting rid of some people and moving boxes around on the org chart. This is going to require culture change and an ongoing vigilance.” Fair enough, but what does this mean? How will the leaders that have prospered in the current culture create a dramatically different one?

Here are my recommendations for GM leaders:

  1. Don’t “put this behind you”; make it part of your new culture. Weave this tragic story into company lore and build ways of working to avoid it happening again.  For example, ensure that new employee orientations include your lessons learned. Share how this has profoundly changed your thinking and behaviour. This failure is part of your culture and will be a source of strength when you can articulate what you have become because of it. Follow Mary’s lead:  “I want to keep this painful experience permanently in our collective memories. I don’t want to forget what happened because I ‒ and know you ‒ never want this to happen again. This will take conscious actions.”
  2. Modify your rewards system to encourage new behaviours and leave behind old ones, especially for senior leaders ‒ they must demonstrate that they support the new culture and are prepared to benefit or lose because of it
  3. Work on accountability first. Nothing will change without people at all levels feeling responsible for outcomes
  4. Document examples of the new empowered culture and share them across the organization
  5. Invite external experts and the press to evaluate your progress. Highlight and address setback. There will be setbacks

The most important recommendation is for leaders to acknowledge that they own GM’s culture and they created the old one through their actions and behaviours.

The report could have said that leaders take full accountability for the failure to recall dangerous cars. It would have been an excellent example of the new culture they are charged with creating.

Phil

Loving My Public Speaking Boot Camp!

It feels like I have joined a public speaking boot camp. This week’s workout was at a high school where I spoke with 100 students and teachers over two sessions. The topic was my life’s timeline and the lessons learned along the way. For fifteen and sixteen year olds, this had the potential of being boring, or worse, sleep inducing, so I added lots of excitement: a costume change, candy rewards (Kraft/Cadbury brands of course), high-kicks, and brutally honest stories (and the emotions behind them). It was a lot of fun and they seemed engaged by the good and bad decisions I made. 

It felt strange sharing my life with an audience. Although I prefer the present over the past, I had forgotten some of the experiences that have made me who I am. My lessons learned are:

– Believe in yourself – no one can do it for you
– Decide what you want in life and go for it
– Be good at something, anything – “The more I practice the    
  luckier I get”    
Keep your options open – be open to new things               
The more you do the more opportunities you find
Be referable  that’s how you get ahead
First impressions count
Be positive you don’t accomplish much when you are  
  negative
If something isn’t working, try a different approach
Ask for help (and give it too)
Don’t burn bridges
What goes around comes around

Like most public speaking talks, you learn from your audience
and I am still thinking of the students’ and teachers’ thoughtful 
questions. Now, how do I write a thank you note to 100 
people?


Phil

Becoming a Platinum Member of My Own Rewards Program

Over the past five months, I have received tremendous encouragement from friends and family. It has helped me stay on course through the twists and turns of doing something new. Just yesterday, I received an incredible note from someone I haven’t seen in eight years. He said, “…keep on with your passions. Know you have people cheering you on from the sidelines. Be sure to leverage those people on the sidelines when you feel a need for perspective…” What a powerful message and kind gesture – I will reread it often.

I realize, however, that I need to take accountability for my motivation. Motivation is inspired from outside but built from within. I must be my number one cheerleader. I must be responsible for fanning the flames of my passion and ambition.

Rewards are an important element of any change project. Whether for celebrating milestones achieved or acknowledging the hard work of the team – rewards matter. This is contrary to an article I read recently. The author said you must be wary of rewards and to use them selectively. On the surface, this partly makes sense. They should be used to reward specific events or behaviours and not handed out without merit. What I don’t see is the implied caution in using them. It reminds me of a quote from the early 90s TV show ‘Twin Peaks.’ Kyle Maclachlan says, “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.” Everyday seems a bit much, however the spirit feels right.

I only have witnessed two situations where rewards and recognition were not motivating. The first was in a unionized manufacturing environment when the individual was teased for being positively recognized. The second was when someone didn’t like the reward she had been given: “What am I going to do with a utility knife?” Every other situation left people feeling appreciated and recharged. 

If rewards are an important part of change project management, then why shouldn’t it be an important part of a project to write a book on change management? I need to build them into my work plan so I can celebrate milestones achieved and acknowledge hard work.  I must build my own rewards program of which I am a platinum member.

The two rewards I have planned are a new technical t-shirt for my first marathon in October, and the CD and DVD of  A-ha’s final concert. They may not be on your list of rewards but they definitely have me excited. Now, I must keep doing the work that will earn them.

Phil

Take Action

Ask us a question about your change

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Subject

    Your Question


    Get the newsletter
    Change With Confidence
    Please type your name and email address and click on "Send". We will add you to our newsletter distribution list. Thank you.




    Get Change with Confidence
    Change With Confidence

    Get Change on the Run
    Change With Confidence