Womack Audio on Bloomberg.com
Check out the link on the right hand side for the interview with Jim Womack (requires Real Player software).
Here are some highlights, I’m paraphrasing the best I can.
On GM not catching up to Toyota:
GM is a victim of having been the absolute best at the previous best way of doing things. This type of company is typically the last to convert to the new best way of doing things (they haven’t duplicated Toyota after 20 years of working with them at NUMMI). Should they even continue trying or just try something else at this point?
That’s an interesting thought, that last comment. Womack mentioned how GM has kept hoping for a return to their glory days, as if they just weren’t executing their playbook properly, rather than switching to the Toyota playbook. I think Womack is asking if maybe GM should quit copying and develop a system that works for them, today, as Alfred Sloan did back in the day?
On legacy costs, the item most frequently blamed for GM’s troubles, as if GM management isn’t responsible for this. Womack says:
When you more retirees every day and fewer employees every day, that’s because you’re losing in the market. Getting relief on legacy costs is necessary, but not sufficient. Their vehicles aren’t getting as high a price as Toyota and productivity isn’t as good.
Womack was also saying that everytime they fix their legacy costs, they fall into the next problem down the road and it sounds like he doesn’t expect it to be differently this time. GM still needs to develop products that people want.
Finally, about Toyota and what keeps them up at night:
“Well, first off Toyota worries. It’s very very interesting. You go talk to them… and they’re always worrying. They just reported staggering profits… and the first thing they want to talk about it how bad things are, how many problems they’ve got, what they’re obsessing about. Whoa. That’s a mental trait, that the paranoid do survive… they simply worry more than anyone I know.”
“What do they worry about? They worry about the fact the system is still driven out of Japan and they’re everywhere now in terms of factories, in terms of R&D, but the fact is, to put the discipline in the system, that force, that energy is still coming out of Toyota City. How do they diffuse that energy so it’s not coming from one place? I don’t have the answer. They don’t have the answer. But they think about it every day.”