A New Culture at General Motors—but With the Old Execs

By Staff Report

Jun. 15, 2009

The White House hopes the old dogs at General Motors can learn new tricks.

Steven Rattner, head of President Barack Obama’s auto task force, says changing GM’s bureaucratic culture is critical to reinvigorating the bankrupt automaker.

“Addressing cultural issues is just as fundamental to our assignment as addressing the balance sheet or financing,” he said in published reports.

But GM lifers dominate the company’s senior management. Of the automaker’s 12 executives with a rank of group vice president or above, only three have been with GM less than 20 years.

Take the two men most responsible for GM’s future cars and trucks: Tom Stephens, vice chairman for global product development, and John Smith, group vice president for global product planning. Each has spent 40 years at GM.

On June 12, purchasing boss Bo Andersson left GM. He was a relative newcomer, having joined in 1987. Change may come as others follow him out the door.

“We will lean out the management structure so that it will allow us to make faster decisions,” GM chief financial officer Ray Young said. He declined to say how many will leave, but said, “We will eliminate layers of management.”

Filed by James B. Treece and David Barkholz of Automotive News, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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