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“My Best Mistake:” Working for General Motors

by Mark Graban on April 24, 2013 · 3 comments

As a LinkedIn “Influencer,” I was invited to contribute a story to the “My Best Mistake” series. I wrote about something I, at first, thought was a mistake… taking my first job out of college at General Motors.

In the piece, I write about why I wasn’t interested in a job at General Motors, but why I took a job there anyway (one plant’s supposed dedication to the “Deming Philosophy” of W. Edwards Deming). Alas, I learned the “Livonia Philosophy” was (ironically) just a poster and slogan on the wall.

My Best Mistake: Working at General Motors

But, it turned out to be a great learning experience… but, sadly, the Livonia Engine Plant was closed as a result of GM’s bankruptcy, even with the great improvements they had made after we got a new plant manager who was one of the first GM people to learn from the GM/Toyota NUMMI joint venture (as you can hear about here).

A photo of the closed plant:

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Read more here.

mark graban lean blog My Best Mistake: Working for General Motors leanAbout LeanBlog.org: Mark Graban is a consultant, author, and speaker in the “lean healthcare” methodology. Mark is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as the new Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. Mark is also the VP of Innovation and Improvement Services for KaiNexus.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David McGan May 6, 2013 at 7:01 am

As bad as it was for the employees, it was just as bad for the suppliers.


2 David Divoky April 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Back in the early 90′s, I was fortunate to have had an internship with a company called Amtex, a supplier of automotive carpets to the NUMMI facility in Fremont, California. It was quite a learning experience and I certainly saw firsthand the clear and evident commitment on the part of the company to its employees. Toyota, even in Japan and contrary to popular myth, does not guarantee lifetime employment. No employer can credibly make such a guarantee. What an employer can do and what Toyota does is state that the last thing the company wants to do is lay off employees. Only as a last resort will it turn to reducing the work force. Through such a policy, real trust can develop between the company and employees, along with the motivation for employees to accept responsibility and take ownership. At NUMMI, this policy was called “mutual trust.” However, the plant since closed back in 2010, and the facility is now the new TESLA plant.


3 Mark Graban April 21, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Thanks, David. It’s sad that something as simple as “mutual trust” is missing from so many organizations.

I wonder how things are, culture wise, at the plant now that it’s Tesla.
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