Quite the week for tumultuous news. First a bug from a pig on a Mexican beach causes worldwide panic, then an American automaker declares bankruptcy while another, once deemed to big to fail, teeters on the brink.
We live in exciting times, eh?
What I find fascinating about the throes of the domestic auto industry is the fundamental shift in accountability that will result. It's fair to argue that at least some of the woes that currently afflict the formerly-Big 3 took root in generations of less-than-stellar labor relations. Leaders of the unionized workforce managed to carve out quite the power niche for themselves as they virtually guaranteed well-paying jobs for workers who, in any other economy, would most likely have been sweeping floors at the local pizza joint.
Unfortunately for the automakers, their adversarial relationships with their unionized employees prevented them from responding in anything remotely approaching an agile manner to fast-changing market conditions. Byzantine union rules that prevented certain classes of workers from doing anything not directly tied to their mandated position - sorry, sir, I'm qualified to install door handles on the Cutlass SE, not the LX - hampered their ability to change with the times.
Lest you think I'm myopic, there's plenty of blame to go around, Leadership certainly must shoulder much of the blame for becoming so unable to see which way the world was going, it didn't help that their hands were tied by workers more interested in their own self-interest and not the company's or, heavens, the customers.
So as taxpayers on both sides of the borders pump countless billions of dollars into these former leviathans of industry, they have every right to expect that the organizational structures, processes, attitudes and relationships that resulted in today's monumental botch job will be tossed out the window and replaced with something reminiscent of an actual business plan, where various stakeholders - leaders, workers, supply chain members, customers - partner up to create a market that can create value and sustain itself.
Damn, I sound so idealistic. Still, I'm encouraged by the fact that the United Auto Workers will own a decent-sized chunk of the Chrysler that emerges from bankruptcy. Maybe once the unionistas are on the other side of the business coin, they'll appreciate something beyond the culture of entitlement that has guided them for so long.
If we're lucky, the same kind of sea change will flow into GM, Ford and whoever else is left standing when this storm is done blowing itself out.
Your turn: Thoughts?