We talk a lot about global platforms and global powertrains, but the truly global corporation is much stronger in idea than in practice. General Motors CEO Dan Akerson is the latest to take a stab at creating a truly international company, preparing to stir up the entire organization with sweeping mission statements like "We've got to get this company and its culture into the 21st century," and "We need to take the bureaucracy out of the business."
According to a report from TheDetroitBureau.com, Akerson's issue is that GM operates in "legal entities," "fiefdoms" and silos of regional authority that don't make the most of the company or its brands. According to insiders, Akerson is planning a massive reorganization that would create global leadership in areas like purchasing and product development, to go along with those positions that already exist for marketing and design. The aim is to let the company focus on getting good products out instead of attending meetings, getting approvals and making plans.
More practical implementations of the restructuring would be instituting a new accounting system so that it can better track sales by country and a new information technology system to replace the one that lost track of who was working on what. Akerson's also got an eye on rationalizing parts, apparently, wanting to reduce the wild variety in common parts used by the company's brands. For example, The Detroit News notes that GM employs 30 different door latches across its models – rival Toyota only has five.
There doesn't appear to be anyone who thinks the idea of a complete overhaul, where top-down meets ground-up, is a bad thing for GM to do. Analysts do caution, however, that this is a task GM has tried before, and in addition to its inherent difficulty, it's probably easier to get wrong than get totally right. But Akerson sees it as his "patriotic duty" to fix GM, and as everyone else would probably also admit, it's better than doing nothing.