This paper answers a Quora user's question:
Is the main reason that General Motors went bankrupt due to the workers not caring about the quality of their work? How true and is this why so many American vehicles sold in the 1980s & 90s had so many problems and defects? Or what?
American workers have nothing to do with it! There are several thousand American satellites orbiting planet Earth. The average service life is 10-15 years. No maintenance, repairs, oil changes, filters, etc. Once assembled, once launched for 15 years. As far as I know, the American Workers assemble these satellites. What about the care of quality like this?
John Deere – American Toyota Corolla.
In order to realize the absurdity of the common opinion about the cack-handed and negligent American workers, it is enough to go down to earth and look at the American manufacturer of agricultural equipment John Deere. Having become synonymous with quality and reliability, its tractors are assembled by American workers. John Deere sells its products in 100 countries around the world and as a world leader, it continues conquering more and more new markets. In 1982, the price of a new John deere 4440 was $44,000. Today, for a forty-year-old John Deere 4440 tractor, one will have to pay $30-40 thousand. What else loses so little in price after 40 (!) years of operation?!
And what about the competitors? Let us take Toyota and Honda factories in the United States, for example. Have the Japanese brought Japanese workers to the United States? Or Toyota and Hondas assembled by American workers have ceased to be the standard of quality and reliability?! On the other hand, GM plants in Europe and Korea. German and Korean workers work there, the same workers that make Mercedes and Hyundai. And what is the result of GM with such wonderful German and Korean workers? Opel has been sold after 20 years of losses. GM Korea is cutting production and waiting for its turn to be sold. Total failure! And this happens despite the fact that all this time, the big German tree and Hyundai-KIA did well with their German-Korean workers, they grew, they developed, they defended their markets, and conquered new ones. Well, they lived to the full.
Here are three iron arguments in favor of the fact that the American workers have nothing to do with it! But that’s not all. Look wider!
The Fictitiousness of the Problems. Why Did the Host of “Problems” Kill Only GM?
In order to find other “reasons” for the collapse of the greatest US corporation and the largest car manufacturer in the world, you do not have to search long. Someone has already found a whole bunch of reasons. “Exorbitant pension expenditure,” “insidious Japanese,” “rising gasoline prices,” “economic crisis,” “cheap labor with competitors,” “subsidies of competitors by their governments,” “increased environmental control,” etc. The space here will end before the list of all the “troubles” and “misfortunes” of GM is finished.
To make you realize that all these problems are imaginary, I will give a comparative analysis of only one “reason” for the collapse of GM.
GM and Toyota pension expenditure table.
|Pension expenditure ($ billion)||$1,981||$2,685||$3,677||$4,318||$8,146|
|Number of cars produced (million units)||8,286||8,375||8,312||7,478||8,698|
|Pension expenditure per car||$239||$320||$442||$577||$936|
Have you heard of Toyota’s impending collapse due to exorbitant pension expenditure? I hope you guessed that it is possible to draw up such a table for any of the “problems” either listed or not listed above. You yourself can reveal any “problem” that allegedly led to the collapse of GM. Just look at dozens of other automotive giants and compare! They all experience the same pressure expressed in the same problems. Both from within and from beyond. The matter is that they cope with this pressure in different ways.
When you sweep aside all the “problems” and “circumstances” you will only have people, factories with offices, fixed assets and technologies that are created by the very same People. Dig deeper and it turns out that the equipment and machine tools at the factories of different manufacturers are almost the same. FANUC robots work at GM and Toyota factories. Dig even deeper, inside the car, and it turns out that a significant part of the parts and assemblies are supplied to the conveyor of different manufacturers by the same suppliers. Globalization! There is no car manufacturer in the world that independently produces all parts, components, and assemblies.
When you remove all the husk, only People will remain. We seem to have already decided on the American workers, they have nothing to do with it! There remains a thin layer of people who, within the framework of their powers, are burdened with full responsibility for everything that happens to GM. With only one proviso, which is known to everyone and is present in any contract concluded on this Earth, “force majeure circumstances.” That is, if the Russians did not drop a nuclear bomb on Detroit, if Yellowstone did not erupt, if a giant tornado did not destroy several GM plants, then the GM management shall be responsible for everything. It is the management, loll!
By the way, have you even paid attention to a sort of amazing paradox? When we talk about a company on the rise, we mention the name of its head for some reason. Steve Jobs did this and did this. Not Apple did this and that but Steve Jobs. Nobody says that “technological progress” and “know-how” made Apple great and successful. The same thing is with GE. Jack Welch made it the most valuable company in the world. The same thing is with GM. After all, it was Alfred Sloan who, having turned our insights of marketing, introduced his own ones. And it was he who turned GM into the undisputed leader of the global automotive industry and a role model, everyone today copies what Alfred Sloan did.
But when the moment comes for the same companies to decline, all sorts of circumstances and problems come to the fore. And people, individuals, who are endowed with enormous powers and the same enormous responsibility arising therefrom, suddenly disappear somewhere. How does this happen?
The same thing is with circumstances and reasons, i.e. they appear and disappear right by the wave of a magic wand.
Circumstances Rule the World! And Who the Hell is Steve Jobs ?!
Since we are talking about the role of circumstances/causes in the progress/regression of companies, then it would be quite logical to look for the true reasons/circumstances of the rise of Apple, GE, and GM. After all, the progress/regression of a company is essentially two opposites of the same process. These are just different vital indicators of the organization. It’s like with people, one went to college after school, another changed its school bench for prison bunks. This is life, loll.
The anatomy of GM regression is partly described above. And as we can see, the regression of all companies is described and measured by causes/circumstances. It’s strange but in the description of the progress of the same companies, the reasons/circumstances are completely absent. Some people appear. I would say little people, who are clearly preoccupied with the laurels of glory. Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Alfred P Sloane. Who are they? And what did everyone think of them?
Apple rose only because of the development and progress of cellular communications and the mobile Internet, coupled with the progress of the microprocessor industry, which allowed every inhabitant of the Earth to pocket a whole computer. This is the real reason why Apple skyrocketed! If Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo were in the chair of Apple CEO at that time, the result would have been the same! There is no need in many brains to figure it out. Say that Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo was the head of Nokia at that time and he could… Nonsense! There is an explanation for this and an objective reason, America is a Great country for Great accomplishments but Finland is not so great.
GE is a special case. I don’t even need to swear. Shrewd people have already identified the true reason for the rise in stocks by 5200% in 1981-2000. “As soon as the bull started to run, GE stock went in only one direction, up.” “CEOs have been praised for their genius when in reality, they were just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.” If Jeffrey Immelt had been in the chair of GE CEO at that time, the result would have been the same! There is no need in many brains to figure it out.
GM passed over everyone just because the market was ripe, the Model T became boring. Consumers who lived through the Great Depression wanted more variety and more vibrant colors. And here was GM with its heap, Oldsmobile, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Pontiac. Alfred P. Sloan had just put this heap in order. That’s all! Great luck had come with William S. Nudsen, who did what the guys from GM couldn’t do for 40 years. Using his wealth of experience and knowledge acquired at Ford, he made the “Model T killer” (here’s the second American Toyota Corolla made by American workers). Cheap, high-quality, and even multi-colored Chevrolets slammed the main competitor, Ford. And of course, it is inappropriate to write off Henry Ford, who at that time simply stuck (did not follow the consumer) and did not offer any resistance. Here are the true reasons/circumstances that paved the way for GM’s 77-year global domination. If Rick Wagoner were in the chair of RM CEO at that time, the result would have been the same! There is no need in many brains to figure it out.
Why the hell didn’t John Deere sit still? Why did he suddenly bother to create a new plow?! The reason is known. He moved to Illinois and the soil there is sticky (sticks to the plow). If Jeffrey Immelt, Rick Wagoner, and Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo were in Illinois at that time, the result would have been the same! There is no need in many brains to figure it out.
Drop off the above-mentioned honorable gentlemen! Seeing the bloody calluses on the hands of farmers and their torment with the soil sticking to the plow, any of us would rush to rectify the situation. For free, like John Deere. Hmm, there is no need in many brains to figure it out…
Politics and Personality Cult.
If you google “GM” today, the first thing to be highlighted is “GM can “completely” catch up with Tesla in sales of electric vehicles by 2025.” Four years ago was “We’re switching to all-electric models.” Hmm, fifty years ago was “We are going to make an import-killer.” If you notice, none of these slogans have been implemented. Because no one was involved in their implementation. Moreover, all those who constantly throw in such project slogans in the information space never really planned to implement them (to work hard and contribute to the achievement of the goals set). And when, after some time, the question of the results arises, here a whole host of skillfully composed legends/reasons/circumstances appear, which prevented the “implementation” of grandiose, bright, and spectacular projects.
By the way, when Alfred P. Sloan, Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, and the like were creating and creating, they did not shout about it at every corner. They just did their job. Silently! Most likely because they did not have time for idle chattering.
A simple game with one very useful property, years pass in large companies between the proclamation of a slogan and the question of results. The larger the company and the grander the slogan, the longer it is possible to not give an answer to the question about the results. And someone uses this property very skillfully. It reminds one field that is reputedly covered in filth and intrigue, politics!
The previous chapter is an example of how easy it is possible to erase the achievements (Result) of any person by throwing several “reasons” and “circumstances” on his activity. It is just as easy to erase failures (mistakes) and inaction of any person. You just need to throw in more “reasons” and more “circumstances.” This is the essence of politics. Politics produces nothing and creates nothing. Politics gives a zero result. Politics is a tool for promoting and raising people who are not burdened with tangible (measurable) results.
Follow the result! This is the only way to get the right answer. There is always a person behind any tangible (measurable) result. Whether it’s GE’s 5200% growth or GM’s bankruptcy. Whether it’s the rise of Apple or the fall of Nokia. Behind any positive or negative result is a specific person, the one who created it.
The Culture of Diversity.
There are two types of Talented People who can and want to. Some use their talents exclusively for their own benefit (Guys from GM). Therefore, their real activity is the same never-ending politics. Others create and produce, achieving only one thing, i.e. a tangible Result. Not for a bonus or promotion but particularly for the sake of a few moments of euphoria, for the sake of a sense of victory, for the notorious self-implementation, and for the sake of godless self-association with the Creator. All this is accompanied by a powerful release of our natural stimulants into the blood, i.e adrenaline, endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin. And the notorious “moral satisfaction” shared with the same “addicted” colleagues plays a crucial role in this “rush.” Powerful cocktail! This mixture knocks down the elephant. They are tightly on this dope, no one has yet been able to quit. And one can’t buy it from a dredge dealer, there is no such laboratory in the world that could artificially recreate it.
Not rich “diversity.” There are only two types. And such different results are due to the difference in the potential of the Personality. The first ones, creating something, move the world forward. The other ones simply use the results of the former.
Corporate Users and Belief in People.
What will be discussed later may shift your belief in people or perhaps you suspected something like that. The matter is in the purely personal goals of CEOs before they take the appropriate chair. Hope there is no need to remind anyone that people don’t just get into such positions. People climb to this, sometimes for years, sometimes a bit faster but they climb to this. It is natural that in the course of their conscious and purposeful climbing the career ladder, people take certain actions and make certain moves. It is also natural that the essence of these actions and moves is fundamentally different. As well as the people themselves. Exactly! People are different, both beyond and within.
Some naively assume that brilliant performance, real achievements, and tangible (measurable) Result are a guarantee of growth. Others, who are more cunning, use other means:
- Relationships and personal connections, not with workers, of course
- Competent PR and skillful self-presentation
- Mimicry and the art of reincarnation
- Dexterous juggling of authority and responsibility (half a paper about the “guilt” of workers)
- The Art of the User, i.e. the use of subordinates, colleagues, bosses, power, influence, information, acquaintances, connections, etc.
- Active participation in informal organizations, including creation thereof
- And so on and so forth.
This multifaceted, sometimes skillful, and sometimes sophisticated activity requires a separate description. One paper is not enough. But there is a book that discloses this topic.
I think, even from these two paragraphs, everyone himself will be able to describe the purpose, for which the most talented people occupy the highest positions.
Some, having seated themselves in the CEO’s chair, immediately jump up and start running, constantly accelerating, while spinning the whirlwind of Changes, drawing like-minded people into this whirlwind. One should be quite lucky to find them on the spot. And all for the sake of doing something, creating something (see above). They just can’t do it any other way! That is, a chair means new opportunities, new horizons, and new challenges for them. This is just the beginning!
Others, having seated themselves in the CEO’s chair, won’t rush to leave it. What for? Why, at all, leave a place that has been your only goal for years. More precisely, the seven-figure salary attached to this place. That is, the chair for them is the finish! The end of the dream. There are only stars higher. But the stars do not generate income! The only thing that makes them move after ascending the throne is the fear of losing it. After long sitting in their chair, they grow together with it so that a fresh successor cannot get them out of there:
– “Rick, let me sit in my chair!” Rick replies:
It wouldn’t be difficult to deduce the natural polarity of their results, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.
To make it easier for you to digest this “news,” let me draw your attention to the book by John Perkins “Confessions of an Economic Hitman.” For those who have not read the summary, someone, driving into unpaid debts and subordinating nominal leaders to his will, uses entire countries for personal and selfish purposes. It is a fact! Notice, an uncontested fact. Therefore, some corporations and smaller companies used by someone for personal and selfish purposes are just a trifle compared to this.
It’s hard to believe but it’s a fact! The guys from GM use companies the way we all use a toothbrush. With only one difference, we treat our toothbrushes much more carefully. In the end, we throw it away, just like the guys from GM do. Didn’t you understand?
When, to our undisguised satisfaction, another guy from GM is kicked out of the CEO’s chair and kicked in the ass, we think that justice has been served. Actually, the guy from GM threw out his toothbrush. And it was he, not us, who got everything he wanted! Satisfaction included, five-ten-fifteen years in a chair are equal to $50-100-150 million, which are settled in his pocket!
A good name, a good memory, a distinct trace in history, at least a corporate one, recognition, a clear conscience, unsullied honor, satisfaction with the results of one’s work, honor and respect in retirement, etc. All these moral and ethical Bells and Whistles are not for the guys from GM! All these tarnished valuables covered with a thick layer of dust are taken out from the attic only for rare mentioning in papers, so long and so boring like this one. The guys from GM have a more recent, ultimate answer, Nothing personal loll, it’s just business…
American workers are tens of millions of Americans. Note, not scientists from a sort of Harvard, through years of scientific research, have identified the cause of the collapse of GM, it lies in the laxity, negligence, and irresponsibility of the American workers. These guys from GM, along with all the other “reasons,” threw this filth into the information space. Blame the majority of the American population for their failures and inaction. Estimate the scale of what is happening! To what the guys from GM are ready to descent in order to cover up their worthlessness and justify their failures.