It’s been a rough year for General Motors. The company has recalled more than 28 million vehicles worldwide and is liable for billions of dollars in automotive repairs and victim compensation. It suffered an 85% drop in its second-quarter earnings and faces multiple state investigations, not to mention class-action lawsuits related to safety issues. Can GM recover from this massive crisis?
It can make a comeback, but the recovery hinges on changing the organization’s culture. For years, GM focused on cost-effectiveness and the bottom line, creating what the new CEO Mary Barra calls “a pattern of incompetence and neglect.” To address the current crisis, she of course needs to fix the safety problems, but she also needs to create a new company culture. Safety must become the priority over cost savings in order to regain consumer and market trust, and GM’s focus needs to be on the customer.
So far, Barra, who inherited the crisis when she was promoted to CEO this past January, is moving in the right direction. By firing 15 employees who were involved in the lack of communication about safety issues, she sent a powerful message both within and outside of the company about the company’s changing priorities.
The meeting that drones on and on; the meeting where everyone sits fiddling with his or her smartphone; the meeting that Doug from Accounting hijacks; or the meeting where almost everyone in the room is wondering the same thing: Why am I even here?
Meetings fill an increasing number of hours in the workday, and yet most employees consider them as a waste of time. According to a survey of U.S. professionals by Salary.com, meetings ranked as the number one office productivity killer. (Dealing with office politics was a close second, according to the 2012 survey.)
We negotiate nearly every day. While the term “negotiation” often brings to mind larger-stake deals, such as the purchase of a new home or car, more often these negotiations are smaller and involve project deadlines at work or divvying up of household responsibilities.
Many of us, myself included, can’t stand negotiations whether big or small — so much so that it comes as a surprise that others actually relish each chance they get to negotiate.
Regardless of which camp you’re in, most of us can relate to the feeling of pounding hearts and sweaty palms when we negotiate. Do these visceral responses — also known as physiological arousal — hurt or help us?
The research: In a series of experiments, Andy Yap and his colleagues examined the impact that people’s ergonomic environments had on their ethics. The studies tested whether being put into an expansive or a contracted posture would affect people’s honesty. The results showed that subjects in larger workspaces and seats, which encouraged expansive postures, were more likely than other subjects to pocket, rather than return, an overpayment for participating in the study, to cheat on a test, and to break the rules in a driving simulation game.
The challenge: Is the boss a jerk because of the size of his chair? Is that guy running a red light because he’s in a giant SUV? Professor Yap, defend your research.
Today, we are in an age of disruption. Global crises challenge just about every aspect of society – finance, food, fuel, water, resources, poverty. The list goes on and on.
Yet this disruption brings with it the possibility of profound personal, societal and global renewal. We need to stop and ask ourselves why we collectively create results that nobody wants? What keeps us locked into the old ways of operating? And, perhaps most importantly, what can we do at a societal level, but specifically in business schools, to transform these patterns so that we are no longer locked in the past?