Barra still working to reform GM’s ‘dog ate my homework’ culture

September 30, 2015
General Motors chief executive Mary Barra is still working to reform the company’s corporate culture as it emerges from the ignition-switch fiasco.

The recall saga exploded just weeks after Barra took the reins, forcing the company to refocus on safety while simultaneously pushing forward with a new strategy focused on profits rather than raw sales numbers, according to a Bloomberg interview with several top executives.

The rookie CEO has been credited with achieving success in both the business restructuring and in navigating the recall crisis, however the push for a new culture is still a work in progress.

“We used to be a company of best efforts and there was a ‘dog ate my homework excuse’ for not showing results,” she said. “I’m working hard to drive a can-do entrepreneurial spirit.”

The report suggests there is still internal disagreements about a range of issues, and some outside hires are said to be treated as interlopers. Exemplifying the conflicts, sources claim GM’s recruitment of former Samsung designer Dave Townsend ended in failure after just seven months due to internal resistance from GM veterans. At Cadillac, meanwhile, brand chief Johan de Nysschen and GM development boss Mark Reuss reportedly have very different opinions about the luxury marque’s design language.

The company appears to face an even tougher challenge spreading the new culture throughout the company’s hundreds of thousands of lower employees spread across the globe. Most analysts agree with Barra’s assessment that any evolution will likely take years, and some critics doubt it is even possible to achieve the promised changes on such a broad scale.

“The middle in any culture is the hardest to change,” she said.

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