Lean Thoughts on the UAW Striking GM?


Detroit News Article

I'm too far removed anymore and I'm not sure if there's really a Lean story in any of this mess. Does anyone care to comment?

My questions:

  • When the news just focuses on the “cheap labor costs of Toyota” (as I just heard from an idiot on cable news), does that do a disservice to anybody? Has anyone seen an article about the strike that mentions the competitiveness gap between the “Detroit Three” and Toyota? Is Lean ever mentioned?
  • Is the “Voluntary Employee Benefits Association” (VEBA) just an accounting trick? Instead of creating value, they're also playing accounting games…. am I seeing that wrong?

Click “comments” to chime in…

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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. Thank goodness for the “waste of overproduction,” since GM has an oversupply of vehicles on the lots. Does this help GM save money, in the short-term, in a weird way?

  2. If you ask me…all those “angry GM employees” will be “angry former GM employees” before too long.

    One has to ask what the market will bear, and I don’t think it will bear much more of what GM and others must demand to support outrageous employee benefits and wages.

    I’m all for American workers being treated fairly while making American cars, but it seems the writing is on the wall.

    What business can possibly sustain the costs and hassles American automakers are obligated to endure? NONE!

    Where else can you get a $43. per hour job with only a high school diploma? Probably nowhere!


    The only remaining “good part” of unions is “The Threat of forming a Union.” That’s enough to keep most companies in line.

    Unions were once a Godsend, now they are an embarrassment and lead to a company’s downfall.

    Mark my “anonymous” words, either the union will go, or the company will. That has become the legacy of unions!

  3. This won’t help GM get rid of cars. You can’t just look at the aggregate volume. They generally have too much of stuff that doesn’t move and too little of what’s hot. For lack of options, people that can’t get what’s hot won’t buy the stuff sitting around, they will go to another brand. GM is hurt by the strike as much as the UAW membership is. Overall a lose-lose.

  4. They keep talking about wanting the company to grant “job security.” The only job security is building good quality cars that people want at the right price.

    The MARKET gives job security.

  5. My thoughts are a little late coming but I belive that if the big 3 is to survive the UAW needs to educate the top leadership in lean and then maybe they would be able to see that the only why to save these manfacturing jobs is for the unions to police lean in these plants. What I am saying is we need to insure that these plants on operating in a truly lean atmosphere. If we don’t the advantage they have relizied thru the recent paycuts we took and that they won in the latest contract will soon be used up and they will be asking for another 50% paycuts


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