Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Barra Bashing?

I try not to repeat myself but I was really sleepy tonight. Before dozing off I started reading Time's cover article about Mary Barra, GM's CEO. Annoyed, irritated I became wide awake. The article starts by saying that Barra suddenly learned about the ignition switch problem two weeks after becoming CEO...while in her car. She learned it from the head of product development who called her. [expletive deleted]! She knew about the problem before...or should have.

My first thought was that since the problem's been known since 2001, there had to be a hundred or so employees who knew about this. Not one of them was courageous enough to push the issue up? Especially after one or two deaths might be attributed to the problem? [expletive deleted]!

Also, Barra WAS the head of product development just a few years ago. How did the new guy learn about the 13-year problem and she didn't? Either she quashed the issue or she's not approachable with any kind of bad news. Because the one or two or a dozen courageous, compassionate, dedicated employees who knew about the problem could not get it to her or through her. Or she couldn't convince anyone else that it was a problem GM should solve. Whatever the reason she shouldn't be the CEO.

And shame on Time for allowing the impression that she 'suddenly' learned about the problem after becoming CEO, and not challenging that story line particularly since they also reported on the other related facts in the same article.

Shame on the GM Board of Directors who seem to have said, "Hey, we've got a female head of the company. Let's do something else to show we've changed...What about 'uncovering' that ignition problem we've buried for 12 years and let Mary fix it? It'll look like she came to the rescue."

How damning is the internal investigation by former US Attorney Valukas if he didn't ask, 'What did she know and when did she know it? [famous Watergate hearing question] If she didn't know about it when she was head of procurement and head of product development, why not? How did the new male head of development find out about the problem but Barra didn't? Why did he bring it to the CEO's attention when, if she knew when she was head of development, she didn't?'

The Time article is giving her credit for shifting GM's corporate culture--'a word she deeply dislikes' preferring to refer to it as 'it's how we behave'. Okay, Barra, how did GM behave when the ignition problem was uncovered in 2001? How did you behave when you found out about the problem sometime in the past 10 years when you hit the executive level? Or how did you behave that you didn't find out about the problem because people might have been afraid to tell you? What's changed now? Why didn't those changes occur in the product development department when you headed it? Why does the press think you're approachable now when you weren't a few years ago? What legend is the PR department cooking up for you?

Barra, you're lauded as a CEO of the shop floor worker because you like walking around the factories talking to everyone. Are you the CEO of the stressed, anguished, frustrated technicians and engineers who weren't allowed to solve this problem anytime in the 12 years? Were you the CEO of the people who may have quit because the issue wasn't being addressed?

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