Car Guys vs Bean Counters
The head of Ford's Human Resources department called him an "opinionated swashbuckler." He himself has described his management still as "often wrong, seldom in doubt." He's a complex character with strong conservative views that also clash with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck.
His new book, Car Guys vs Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business, he recounts his years at General Motors during his second stint with the company starting in 2001. What he found was a company mired in a convoluted management process that focused on profits before product. Unfortunately, because of the constraints imposed by the system, the result was predictably mediocre product culminating in cars like the Pontiac Aztek, perhaps the worst car design since the Edsel.
It was, in his view, the preoccupation with management by process that forced car design through a complex series of steps overseen 14 Vehicle Line Managers who while "brilliant engineers" had virtually no sense of style. Cookie cutter car projects flowed through GM's system year after year, and year after year, GM lost more market share. It wasn't for lack of talent, Lutz would find. It was the fact that the system hamstrung that talent. Once Lutz' changes unleashed it, GM products began to again capture the public's interest and win automotive awards.
In Part 1 of our interview, he recounts how and why GM designs for several decades gradually became insipid, emotionless boxes on wheels where the underlying motive was to extract as much money from the buyer for as little investment by GM as economically possible.
You can listen to Part 1 of our 40-minute+ conversation using either of the two MP3 players in the right-hand column or by downloading it to your computer for transfer to and playback on your favorite MP3 device. Part 2 will be podcast next week.