During Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit on Wednesday, Mary Barra, General Motors' executive vice president of global product development and global purchasing and supply chain - and in the running to be GM's next CEO - says she gives her employees one directive: "No more crappy cars."

"[Employees] want to go and do their best. I feel so much of what I need to do is set up the systems, enable the processes and have the right leadership," Barra says. Empowering employees and expecting their best work is a concept that isn't so strange to relatively new tech companies such as Google or Facebook, but for GM to do the same, Barra worked at "getting rid of that bureacracy that can creep into a company that's a hundred years old," she says.

While she worked as vice president of human resources before her current position, she fought GM's bureacracy by taking the focus of HR employees off reports and paperwork and reducing the company's policy manual by 80 percent, which included cutting a 10-page dress-code section. Her reasoning for getting rid of the dress code and replacing it with an easily remembered "dress appropriately" is simple: if employees are managing teams of people and million-dollar budgets, GM doesn't need to tell them how to dress, she says.

Of course, Barra was asked if she could name a crappy car from GM's past, but she didn't bite. Watch the interview in the video below for 15 minutes of insight into GM's culture.


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  • 113 Comments
      Jeff Gilleran
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sounds like a progressive lady. Be professional where necessary, and letting the employees be more responsible for their own actions. Building crappy cars has a lot to do with outsourcing parts too. If you buy bad fuel pumps from an outside supplier (this applies to ALL automakers) and put them in a stellar car overall, you still are going to spoil the package once those lower cost, lower quality parts fail. I think Mary needs to look into durability as well as quality.. They go hand in hand.
        Seal Rchin
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Jeff Gilleran
        Progressive? Definition of progressiveness is to blame others................ala your boy 0weblamo.
      Diz
      • 1 Year Ago
      If there are to be "No more crappy cars", then why is a head of Purchasing in line for the job? PA's and Finance-types are the 2 biggest killers of car companies.
      Cesar Idrobo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Bankers should step down from managing positions and let [good] designers take the wheel of the company. Letting designers move forward with innovative high quality products will ensure the continuity of the GM's lineage in the future.
        Seal Rchin
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Cesar Idrobo
        I don't know anything about you but somehow i know who you voted for.
          Cesar Idrobo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Seal Rchin
          My professor, who taught most of my design classes, worked for Pagani Automobili. I know what high-end design feels like.
      csrecord
      • 1 Year Ago
      She likes cars that go fast. Good start.
      linuxaddict7
      • 1 Year Ago
      If I become CEO, I wouldn't release a car until I personally drive and sign off.
        Rich
        • 1 Year Ago
        @linuxaddict7
        If i had wheels, I'd be a wagon.
      nocommie11
      • 1 Year Ago
      But Crappy Cars are GM's bread and butter. You know you're getting crap, but at least it's cheap.
      Seal Rchin
      • 1 Year Ago
      Was the statement made before or after release of 2014 Malibu???????????
        ndcart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Seal Rchin
        Seriously, what do you have against the new Malibu? It's actually quite a nice ride for what it is.
          axiomatik
          • 1 Year Ago
          @ndcart
          @ Seal Perhaps you are referring to the 2013 Malibu? Motor Trend does not appear to have reviewed the refreshed 2014 yet.
      Robt
      • 1 Year Ago
      Don't know if she can or will be a successful CEO, but it's good to hear large doses of common sense coming from a senior exec.
      Seal Rchin
      • 1 Year Ago
      GM needs to hire a CEO who knows how to improve manufacturing and leave the looks of the car to someone like Lutz. GM needs to improve automation to reduce labor costs and to weaken UAW, this should be their #1 priority. Alan Mullaly is not a good CEO, but they need someone with a similar background, strong manufacturing experience, again do not approve or kill cars, guys like Lutz do that, CEO should concentrate on manufacturing alone.
        Seal Rchin
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Seal Rchin
        I'd like to know who keeps trailing me and downranking all my comments, show your face coward.
          Beardinals
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Seal Rchin
          Maybe taking the internet a little too seriously?
          Gordon Chen
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Seal Rchin
          Maybe it's not them. Maybe your comments are to blame.
          Patrick
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Seal Rchin
          The Alan Mullaly comment isn't helping you. Your line of attack on him is solely based on quality. Well, before the introduction of Sync and MyFord Ford's quality ratings were going way up. I think most people get that, know most Fords are fundamentally mechanically sound, and hence Ford's sales keep getting stronger. By any other measure you care to take his reign has been hugely successful. He brought Ford back from the dead in North America, had the foresight to get a bunch of funding before the 2008 crisis which saved them, has pulled off a miracle getting Ford back into competitiveness in China, moved Ford MUCH closer into standardizing platforms across different markets, and has done more than anybody to tear down the toxic "fiefdom" corporate culture that Ford was famous for. Lastly, don't get so mad that people don't agree with your opinions...its a free internet.
          IcoHolic
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Seal Rchin
          I downranked your comment. Your anti-union and Mullaly comments deserved it.
        sodamninsane
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Seal Rchin
        I do. For one. You're tactics are childish. Large companies are a mix of expertise. The job of the CEO is to connect the organization such that it can function effectively, not to be the sole and over riding tactics expert. Mullaly is a great CEO because he is a great connector, he is a great people person and as such he motivates his team accordingly and inspires them to do great things. Demolishing the UAW, or upgrading all the plants is meaningless without quality product and an efficient organization. The UAW doesn't need to be demolished, it needs to start helping its workers again by assisting in solving repetitive motion injuries, helping find labor solutions and not just protecting lazy employees who don't really want to work. That will only come from motivation, not punishment. Do the world a favor and take 5 minutes to think about what you type, to form a real idea and then actually add something to collective voice that is the internet, not just blabber on like a lamb in the flock.
          Seal Rchin
          • 1 Year Ago
          @sodamninsane
          Have you seen Ford quality issues under Mullaly? You do realize that Escape was recalled like 5 times in first few months of sale. Look at Boeing 787, it was 4 times over the budget and had huge quality issues.................Mullaly was in charge of it.
      budwsr25
      • 1 Year Ago
      Who is she kidding!! The only thing GM cares about is the check clearing the bank. If GM starts building better cars and trucks the price\'s will go up. If they really wanted to build NO CRAP they should have started with the new full size trucks.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        spam
        • 1 Year Ago
        I don't know whether to criticize you for your blatant misogyny, your total ignorance to GM products (CTS, C7 Corvette, heck even the Chevy Impala is Consumer Reports' second highest-rated car), or both. To quote from the movie Billy Madison, "What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
          Seal Rchin
          • 1 Year Ago
          @spam
          Spam, what he said was a FACT, every auto publication sh**ted all over the Malibu, i do not know anything about Silverado i do not care about trucks. But i have been reading auto magazines for years, NEVER have i seen such harsh reviews, they said that new Malubu came outdated, it was on par with cars from 4-5 years ago and most importantly they said it is a failure at what it is, a mid size sedan. They said rear seating is basically USELESS..............think about that, a mid size sedan with useless rear seats.
      Teleny411
      • 1 Year Ago
      GM execs should all cut their salaries with a max of $200,000 per year.
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