Big Ed Keeps Shakin' Up GM

You'd think by now the message would be clear: Ed Whitacre Jr. is not going to stop making changes. Once again, he shook up the management at the automaker. And once again, people are asking why Whitacre keeps moving executives around—and whether or not he knows what he's doing.

General Motors Headquarters
General Motors Headquarters

Time will tell if Big Ed has pulled the right levers at GM, but I think there's no question Whitacre is not finished pushing to change GM. That's a good thing.

Even after going through a speedy, but massive bankruptcy, GM is a company made up of scores of executives who worked for years in the old GM. That doesn't mean those executives lack talent or ability. Far from it. Many of them are among the most talented in the auto industry. The problem was the culture at GM. Slow, plodding and way too insular.

When Whitacre came in as chairman, he looked around and saw a once great company that had become out of shape. Sure, it was given a much needed lifeline in bankruptcy, but unless it got in shape, it would slip into the same old ways that got it in trouble over the years. So Whitacre has set out to kick GM into shape with fresh ideas, fresh executives and a fresh new perspective for GM employees: You better perform or you will be replaced. Oh, and you better move faster than you've ever moved before.

Look at the executives moves.

Steve Girsky: Former Wall Street analyst brought in first as a consultant and now in the role of vice chairman in charge of corporate strategy & business development.

Girsky comes with the mindset that you don't wait to make your move. Forget about spending weeks or months stewing over a shift in strategy. Look at GM's decision to start a venture capital subsidiary Girsky will oversee. The vice chairman wants GM in on the ground floor of start-ups developing technical innovations that could change the auto industry years from now.

Chris Liddell: GM's new CFO gets right to the point. The perfect executive to lead GM through an IPO that will happen sooner, rather than later. Liddell could have stayed at Microsoft and waited for a CEO gig to open up somewhere. Instead, he left, eager for the next corporate challenge. He's got it at GM. And he isn't wasting time pushing the automaker's financial operation to get in gear.

Mark Reuss: Talk with the head of GM North America and it's very clear he is a man on a mission. Reuss isn't interested in just stabilizing GM's market share, he believes it can grow. Why do you think Reuss went out and got former Hyundai marketing guru Joel Ewanick to come over to GM. Reuss wants someone who is going to be bold and try a different approach to winning over customers for Chevy, GMC, Cadillac and Buick.

The bottom line: Change is the only constant at GM these days. Whitacre will not wait for GM to change.


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