General Motors: Total Quality Management

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One of the most important tools that a company may require apart from relevant and effective leadership is proper management. It can be easily argued that most companies that are currently experiencing a downfall or in the past have experienced a downfall have been lacking proper management.

In many occurrences, companies that practice a wrong set of management rules are most likely to stand in competition with other companies that are in their line. Total quality management (TQM) is, therefore, a vital part of the growth of any company, whether it is a small partnership between two individuals or a multi-million dollar company that has been operating for more than fifty years.

TQM can be defined as a set of practices that a company adopts in its management, in order t ensure that customer requirement are achieved. A clear goal towards processes that will give continuous improvement is set when it comes to TQM and the employers are trained, from the onset of their job description, to adhere to some particular form of culture to achieve this purpose. It was first adopted by manufacturing companies, but on the realization of its effectiveness, different forms of TQM’s have been taken up by school organizations, hotel management, and even church organizations. One company that we are going to focus on in terms of its management is one of the biggest movers in automobile manufacturing: General Motors.

In this paper, we are going to focus on the culture of the organization as has been adopted from time past. We are also going to look into the total quality barriers that are experienced by this company, and the reason why they present themselves as barriers. We are also going to look into the differences between the organization under study’s culture and that of a quality culture.

Corporate Culture in General Motors

According to Martin, the subordinates in General Motors, a company that has been in existence for more than a century now, have in a large way focused on loyalty. The culture focuses on deference to authority as was the case with the vice president of the company: John DeLorean. There was even a dressing culture that was adopted, consisting of dark suits and a tiny tied tie for gentlemen who worked as employees of General Motor.

White shirts would accompany these suits, and this was quite a fashionable trend at the moment for the people. Another culture in the company implemented by DeLorean was that he used to resist unquestionable loyalty. He did so by giving bonuses to those who showed loyalty, and thus as much as he had his hands in selling more cars, he also had his hand wrapped around his employees (Martin 2002, pp. 186, para.1).

Lately, there has been the introduction of a “servant leadership” type of culture. This is the norm of being in a great company working as employees for great men in this world. A professional level of intimidation is also experienced there as the boss will always want to look bigger than you. Following a successful training program, an employee of General Motors is usually awarded the statue that shows Jesus expressing servitude by way of washing the feet of his disciples. This is a sign to try and instill brotherhood and servanthood as part of the culture in General Motors (Tobak, 20).

Quality Barriers faced by General Motors

Loomis explains how the company has been having managerial problems that have awarded losses to the company having a loss of up to $8.6 million as in 2005 (Loomis 2005, para.3). He continues to reiterate how the company is a weird combination of businesses. It has engaged itself in obligations that it cannot pay up for. Prices in the bonds for GM have fallen drastically to around $19 in 2005.

This is greatly due to GM’s lack of urgency. The company is way too slow in exploring new ways in which to remodel and rebrand many of its old vehicles. Makes like Silverado needed to be redone. In addition, a writer explains that the culture in GM is one in which that the highest-ranking person in the meeting does all the talking. In other words, 75% of what is said in aboard room meetings is done by the leader of the meeting.

He also speaks of how GM high-ranking officials do not have the experience of actually buying and owning a vehicle on their own. The company usually provides one for them making it hard for them to understand the hardships that their subordinates go through in their day-to-day lives. Such information is necessary for the leader so that he may be compelled to improve on the standards of the vehicle he is using (Sutton, 2010, para.5).

There is no upward flow in passing information. Leadership in GM does not provide room for its employees to speak their minds if they wanted to. Such measures usually provide insulation on the management of the team, making the leadership of GM have no realistic experience about what really goes on in the normal side of life.

Reasons why these are considered as Barriers

When a company like GM lacks creativity and a lack of urgency in implementing what it has to offer to the market, it makes it easier and easier for other players in the market to beat them; and such is the case with Japan’s automobile company, Toyota. It flew past GM in the international market as a smaller company than GM and is making bigger profits in the United States of America as compared to GM which has the bigger shareholder as the government. Creativity cannot be neglected in such a world as we are living in, especially in the automobile industry.

On the managerial level, the junior person needs to be heard more than we always think. The experiences that they go through, especially with them using some of the products that the same company they are working for are producing, may become one of the company’s eye-opener in evaluating how well its products are doing out there. In addition, creating a free environment in which the subordinate is free to speak also makes it easier for management to understand what is needed in making the companies soar to greater heights. The reason why this is important is that a varied number of opinions concerning a matter are better than only one man’s opinion.

The opinion helps to analyze any flaws within the company and when taken into consideration, health differences in opinion will help a company clear most of what is lacking in the market. A 25% speaking time for the leader is recommended in a board meeting and the rest should be thrown to the floor (Sutton, 2010, para.6).

Characteristics of quality culture

In searching for the best way in which companies like GM can handle their cultural quality quagmire one should look for such characteristics as the ones given below. The company should have a clear focus on its vision and have a well-defined purpose in implementing a well-defined curriculum. After this, the employees should practice being open to one another and being honest about their opinion. The company should take the obligation of teaching people about the risk. Endorsement from management down t the others should be another characteristic the company embraces. All staff members should be trained to be forward thinkers and not just people who are there to calm fires created by new exploration.

Staff members should have set goals and are to be goal-oriented. A formal approach to communication should be encouraged by members of the company from top to bottom. The company should also find a means of prioritizing projects that are of important to the company than others. Finally, the company should offer stability in the work process. It should be able to pay off its loans and debts and also pay workers their wages without delay. Consistency is the key to the growth of any company (AMP publications, 2010).

For GM, one of the differences that are clearly shown is the lack of freedom of opinion. The workers are not free to air their opinion in meetings, and this is having a toll on their productivity as a company in the long run. Another difference as compared to quality culture is that GM is afraid of risk-taking, while quality culture encourages the members of the company to be risk-takers. Without taking risks new developments cannot be explored by the company thus the attraction to companies like GM through its products is reduced. If that is not all, GM lacks people who are forward thinkers. Moving on to new developments will be difficult if the leaders in the company have an “it cannot work” attitude like the one portrayed by GM’s management team.


Although a big name in the automobile industry, for the last 10 years, GM has lacked a proper leadership and management structure. With the government being its main shareholder, GM has always been expected to do great in terms of numbers in the markets but it has been declining basically through the severe competition from Toyota, Ford, Nissan, and a few other automobile companies. Nevertheless, a change in the mindset of leadership shown of late has seen the company ascend almost back to the position it was previously. It all begins with the amount of leadership that is installed. It depends also on what kind of culture the employees have been adapted to.

Works Cited

AMP Publishing. Organizational Culture. Biggleswade, Bedfordshire. Web.

Loomis, Carol. The Tragedy of General Motors. Fortune Magazine. Washington DC. 2006. Web.

Martin, Joanne. Organizational culture: mapping the terrain. 5th ed. California: SAGE, 2002. Print.

Sutton, Bob. The Auto Industry Bailout: Thoughts About Why GM Executives Are Clueless And Their Destructive “No We Can’t” Mindset. New York. 2008. Web.

Tobak, Steve. Undercover Boss: Escaping GM’s Abusive Corporate Culture. BNet. 2010. Web.

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