Today, I read a very interesting article about GM, GM’s Chief Labors to Get Rebuilt Car Maker Into Gear, by Sharon Terlep. She talked about the new challenges CEO Dan Ackerson has been facing as the new CEO of General Motors Corporation. After taking over as CEO, he traveled to the various locations within the company to get to know the operations of the company. He worked very hard to know how and why things operated the way they did.
Know Your People and Organization
As he went to the different areas of the company, he found that each area had their own competitive advantages and disadvantages compared to the other areas. Each area had their own trade secrets they were not willing to share. There was a high level of competition between areas.
The Silo Approach
Many of these areas had to work together in some form or another, but they acted like their own separate company. Rather than work together for the good of the company, they worked for the benefit of their specific department, group, or area.
That type of an environment led each group to outspend other areas of the company. Each group desired to have the best of everything to the point that they spent money on frivolous things. They all wanted “the best of everything” for their department. This high level of competition created walls within the company. Functional groups were not willing to work with other departments or compromise in any fashion.
The previous leaders did things that allowed this behavior to exist and even thrive. This contributed to the company going into bankruptcy because it allowed walls to be built where there should have been bridges with open channels of communication.
Tear Down Walls and Become a Team
Coming into a situation like that, Dan Ackerson had the goal of changing that mentality. Instead of having many distinct work-groups performing similar functions with duplicated work, he decided to eliminate redundancies and get everyone to work together. Many of the walls were built at many levels within the corporation, so he had to change the mentality from the ground up.
So how does this story apply to you as a leader? Are there many parts of your company that seem to act as their own empire or organization? What are you doing to tear down these walls? As a leader, there are many things that you can do to break down these walls.
Develop an open line of communication.
As a leader, you are in a position of influence. You should set the example of open communication by working with the other departments in your company. Develop strong working relationships with other departments so there is an open line of communication.
In many corporations, there is a mentality of “do your part and throw it over the wall to the other departments.” These mentalities are destructive and very detrimental to the company as a whole. Understanding that each department has their own set of responsibilities, there are also many areas of interface between departments.
If you are a leader of a department, you should do all you can to develop good, open communications on those points of interface. The company or organization as a whole is only as strong as its weakest link, so for the good of the whole company, you should develop strong open communication.
Share knowledge with other parts of your company and encourage sharing.
If you are always thinking about the overall good of the company, this will come easily. In addition, once you open up the communication with the other departments in your company, you will find that sharing will happen much more easily.
As you work within your group, you will probably come up with process improvements and/or methods for saving money. As you come up with these improvements, be willing to share them with other departments so they can also benefit. Don’t be afraid that sharing will limit your abilities or future progress because it will actually benefit your company and those around you.
Set overall goals for the company that encourage everyone to work together. If you are in a position of high level leadership, set goals for the whole company that are dependent on the combined success of everyone. In addition, make sure that the goals are ones that require everyone to work together. Ideally, this will create an environment that encourages everyone to work together. When everyone benefits because the company succeeds, there will be more of a desire to share and cooperate.
Ultimately, when one department works against the other departments, the company as a whole suffers because knowledge is not shared. If you work in an environment of strong competition and limited sharing, you must understand that there are many other factors that must be in place for this to work. A major transformation cannot happen over night, so be patient and do all you can to do a little at a time.
What do you do to break down walls, encourage open communication, and get everyone on the same page? Have you seen a company goal bring people together, increase communication, and develop greater amounts of sharing? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments sections below!