60 Minutes: So will GM be "braindead?"


    GM's Difficult Road Ahead – CBS News:

    Tonight on 60 Minutes, nothing really new…. GM blames labor costs, the reporter blames the lack of a national healthcare plan. They all have their own agendas, none of it seems based around really fixing GM.

    Nothing about the lean practices of Toyota or GM's mismanagement. I was surprised the reporter, Steve Kroft, was pretty polite to Rick Wagoner. At least CBS didn't stage GM truck explosions like NBC News did years back on “Dateline.”

    Bob Lutz is on the right track about how GM lost its focus on design. But, why hasn't Lutz been able to influence that more than he has? I have tons of respect for Lutz and saw him speak about seven years ago, before he joined GM. But, it's disappointing that the bean-counters still rule apparently.

    So frustrating…. Kroft asked Wagoner if they are going to build the Camaro that was announced in Detroit…. CEO Wagoner says “a firm maybe.”

    After a smirk, Wagoner continued, “If we didn't try to build this, we might be braindead.”

    So why not announce you're planning on building it!!?!?!?!? Now! My wife, who works in other industries and has a great business mind even asked why “that guy” was so gutless. I told her that was the CEO. “Oh my God” was her gasping response. The slowness and lack of risk taking might be holding them back as much as anything.

    The exact conversation (page 3 of the CBS transcript)

    “We're enthused about it and everybody wants to know, ‘So, are you gonna build it?'” says Wagoner.

    The answer to that question, Wagoner says, is a firm maybe. “We'd like to do it. … We haven't made the call. We've introduced it as a concept. Sometimes we do that to see how people react to it.”

    “The best car in the show,” Kroft remarked.

    “Yeah, well I just got that information,” Wagoner says. “I think that does suggest that if we didn't try to build this, we might be brain dead. Stay tuned.”

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. I saw the program, and had the same take aways as you and your wife. The other thing that caught my attention was the negative comments about moving jobs to Mexico. They have moved jobs out of the U.S. to Mexico, Canada and many other countries. The Delphi Engineering Center is here in Juarez. They can’t move many more jobs out of the country unless they move the assembly plants as well, but it seems like a stick that they use to beat up on their employees. “We’ll move to a lower cost country.” The direct labor cost is a very small part of their cost structure. They have beat their vendors for every cent they can wring out of the components they buy. They have not worked as diligently at Lean Management or Lean Office as a way to reduce their ~50% overhead.


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