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Archive for June, 2009

Why General Motors Will Continue to Struggle

June 11, 2009 3 comments

The NYTimes shed some light today on the G.M. situation. Perhaps the greatest obstacle G.M. faces in the near future is its narrow-minded culture. Here’s an example:

“…whenever a top G.M. executive was called to appear before lawmakers in Washington, staff members would prepare a briefing binder as thick as a Manhattan phonebook and hold multiple meetings to strategize over five minutes of testimony…”

Here’s another:

“In a famous memo that circulated in Detroit during the late 1980s, Mr. Johnson complained that the company was hampered by its inability to execute.

“Teamwork has been replaced by Balkanization,” he wrote. “Our culture discourages open, frank debate among G.M. executives in the pursuit of problem resolution.”

Through the years, outsiders and even company insiders have complained about the months of study required for simple decisions, like making design changes to a bumper or headlights. ”

I think one of the best moves made so far is bringing in new blood with a new CEO (Fritz Henderson) and new chairman (Edward E. Whitacre, who was previously at AT&T). Whitacre even admits he has no prior auto industry experience, but I think this is an advantage, instead of a hindrance.

The new executives at G.M. will (hopefully) have a fresh perspective. New products and technologies (cars, cell phones, etc.) can be learned, but true leadership skills are much more difficult to cultivate.

Business is still business, and I believe two things G.M. can do to ensure future success are:

1) improve execution(get things done in a fast, efficient manner)

2) understanding people (teamwork, inspiration, getting the most out of your employees, etc.).

LINK:

U.S. Takes on the Insular G.M. Culture

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What Makes Us Happy?

June 4, 2009 1 comment

This article from The Atlantic, “What Makes Us Happy?“, came out a couple months ago. It was an exhaustive 72 year study by Harvard Researchers (its most famous male participant was JFK) led by Dr. George Vaillant. It’s a long article, so I wanted to highlight a few excerpts that stood out.

What allows people to work, and love, as they grow old? By the time the Grant Study men had entered retirement, Vaillant, who had then been following them for a quarter century, had identified seven major factors that predict healthy aging, both physically and psychologically.

Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight. Of the 106 Harvard men who had five or six of these factors in their favor at age 50, half ended up at 80 as what Vaillant called “happy-well” and only 7.5 percent as “sad-sick.” Meanwhile, of the men who had three or fewer of the health factors at age 50, none ended up “happy-well” at 80. Even if they had been in adequate physical shape at 50, the men who had three or fewer protective factors were three times as likely to be dead at 80 as those with four or more factors.

It’s no surprise (to me, at least) that depression has major negative implications.

The study has yielded some additional subtle surprises…And depression turned out to be a major drain on physical health: of the men who were diagnosed with depression by age 50, more than 70 percent had died or were chronically ill by 63. More broadly, pessimists seemed to suffer physically in comparison with optimists, perhaps because they’re less likely to connect with others or care for themselves.

Furthermore,

Vaillant’s other main interest is the power of relationships. “It is social aptitude,” he writes, “not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that leads to successful aging.” Warm connections are necessary—and if not found in a mother or father, they can come from siblings, uncles, friends, mentors.

In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

Categories: PSYCHOLOGY
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