Culture Shock: Process Of Reinventing GM Begins With Top Management

Something evident to me in working on this project is that real change at General Motors requires an overhaul of their corporate culture. An editorial cartoon published in the Buffalo News depicts the role of corporate culture in the ignition switch crisis.

Consequently, I was searching for articles that might relate strategies GM is using to shift its culture to one that prioritizes customers and safety. I was very excited to find this story:

culture shock

That, is, I was excited  until I saw the date of publication: February 4, 1993. The message, however, is as relevant today as it was 22 years ago.

Mary Barra seems to take the challenge of changing GM’s culture seriously. She and GM President Mark Ruess use a different leadership style than previous CEOs (Burke, 2014, May 28). Last April, she unveiled the “Speak up for Safety” program that rewards employees who identify ways to improve safety on vehicles or who speak up when they observe issues (like the faulty ignition switch) that affect safety (GM creates speak up for safety program for employees, 2014).

Barra remarked, “GM must embrace a culture where safety and quality come first. GM employees should raise safety concerns quickly and forcefully, and be recognized for doing so.”

Now, she just needs to make it stick.

See also: Root Causes


Burke, K. (2014, May 28). Ruess: GM morale high despite recalls. Automotive News. Retrieved from

GM creates speak up for safety program for employees. (2014, April 10). [Press release]. GM News. Retrieved from

Business | Culture Shock — Process Of Reinventing GM Begins With Top Management | Seattle Times Newspaper.


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My husband likes to tease me by telling me I must be an alien. When I worked as a faculty member in a Business school, colleagues from other disciplines liked to say, “She’s not one of them.” I choose to take these comments as compliments and attribute them to the contradictory characteristics that define me. Highly analytical and results-oriented, I also approach interactions and challenges with empathy, curiosity, and wonder. I see myriad possibilities and delight at considering how to implement them. Since they are based on a solid theoretical foundation, most of them are reasonable and effective. In brainstorming conversations, others often respond to me by saying, “I didn’t think of that.” At the same time, I enjoy learning from everyone I meet, and I want everyone leaving a conversation with me to feel like they have been heard with compassion. My hobbies include knitting, making jewelry, reading, and hanging out with my husband and dogs. I am a long-time vegan committed to social justice and animal rights.

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