In the 1960’s and 70’s General Electric had a very robust business in nuclear power generation. In 1979, the Three Mile Island accident occurred in Pennsylvania and it dramatically changed the world of nuclear power. Public support plummeted and governments suspended plans for future expansion of nuclear energy.
Gutsy Leadership Blog
General Motors’ ignition switch problems that apparently led to several reported deaths have gotten a lot of publicity. The problems were reported to low levels of management as early as 2001, but the news was never acted upon. The new CEO at GM summarized the problem as being one of a “silo” culture in which managers in different departments failed to communicate safety concerns to one another or to senior executives. Hence, the problem festered for over a decade.
Surprisingly, the CEO opened that meeting by saying: “Let me start with this idea that we are going to lead the IT industry through this change (i.e., the cloud revolution).” Throughout her comments, she continued to emphasize that IBM will be the leader, but provided no specifics. Amazingly she made no effort to bring up the current problem, and gave no hints as to the strategies IBM would be using to solve these problems.
It is too bad the CEO didn’t say something like: we caught the problem and could have prevented the incident from happening, but we didn’t; everyone at Target needs to learn from this and be absolutely paranoid about any kind of problem and get the entire chain of command quickly pulled together to solve it.
There have been several articles over the years on the topic of the pitfalls of leaders giving vague directions. There are various reasons for this happening: sloppiness, lack of knowledge, being rushed, etc. Whatever the reason, it can lead to surprises, disappointing outcomes, excessive cost and wasted time. An example I saw in the Harvard […]
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the topic of who you can trust was discussed. The author began with an example of an individual at a consulting firm who was trying to land a big contract with a customer. That contract was worth about $12 million but the customer indicated they could pay only […]
Back in the early 1990’s, the past CEO of Hughes Aircraft, Malcolm Currie, was about to retire. Hughes was a defense-focused company with a history of promoting top engineers and scientists. Employees were abuzz about who would be Currie’s successor.
I did some work with a company recently where the Group VP, in charge of four product divisions, decided to launch a priority setting effort to place more resources against the high potential projects, eliminating struggling, marginal efforts, hopefully leading to market share growth. He got his five VP’s together and indicated his intent and also said that in the process of providing the sharper focus, he hoped that budgets could be cut in the range of 4-6%. Each VP was to come back with their proposal.
It is rare to find a person who reverses these priorities, and hence, it is always wise to put these needs out on the table very early when you discuss possible organizational changes.
That new CEO is not helping any in that recently the WSJ reported that when she was asked to describe her vision for Yahoo, she has variously called it a “daily habits” company, a “personalization company,” and a search engine where “you become the query.” How would you like to be an employee in that company trying to understand where your company is going and how your part of the organization can best help the cause?