20+ Years Ago at GM: The Quality Death Spiral of Bad Management & Blaming Workers

My first job out of college was as an Industrial Engineer at the General Motors Livonia Engine Plant. Blogging didn’t exist then (I didn’t even have email or internet access at work) or I might have started my writing career then. Oh, the stories. I’ve shared some of them on this blog over time.

I’ve blogged about papers from the Don Ephlin files, a former UAW national leader. I have my own small collection of documents and artifacts from my days at GM that I thought to keep in a folder. I still have that folder today.

A few of these memos tell the story of a quality and productivity death spiral that eventually led to our plant manager being replaced. And, by “replaced,” I don’t mean fired or given an early retirement. He was, at least in title, PROMOTED to a role at GM Powertrain headquarters. Thankfully, the new plant manager, Larry Spiegel, was one of the original “NUMMI commandos” and he made a huge difference to the plant and to me, personally.