Lean Manufacturing

Hope for Chrysler

By Jon Miller Published on September 9th, 2007

My hope for Chrysler is that Jim Press can act as a consensus builder and not a heroic, problem solving executive. What Chrysler doesn’t need is a wave of Toyota Production System implementation in their factories or a dose of Toyota way in their marketing and sales groups. What Chrysler needs isn’t more smart people or star executives.
What Chrysler needs is a process for bringing people together towards a common goal. These are fine people making fine cars, but they are not all on the same side facing off against a common problem. Hopefully Jim Press can bring this.
Bob Nardelli was quoted as saying that he now has his world class “demand” guy in Jim Press to go with his world class “supply” guy Tom Lasorda. True perhaps, and not a bad sound bite, but hiring a small number of world class people is not job one. Elevating the performance of tens of thousands of Chrysler employees through motivation, consistency and clarity is the CEO’s job.
News articles this week have said things to the effect that it’s Tom Lasorda’s job to “deal with the UAW” or that it’s Jim Press’s job is to “deal with the dealerships” meaning reduce their number so the remaining ones can be healthy. These things may need to be dealt with, and if they do so by building consensus, Chrysler has hope for becoming America’s #3 auto company again.
Hopefully Jim Press will take a good look around his new organization, think back through a few decades of Toyota experience, and fight to launch a healthy TQC / TQM system at Chrysler. Don’t even call it Lean or kaizen, just get everyone on board. One way or another, we should know in about 3 years.

  1. Erik

    September 10, 2007 - 11:14 am

    I’m quite certain that they made Mr. press an offer he couldn’t reasonably refuse.
    However, this has set up a very interesting dichotomy in leadership. I’ve worked for ex-General Electric gunslingers and in my opinion they are very much “slash & burn”. And of course Toyota is very much “nurture and cultivate” so it will be interesting to see what happens.
    I was so intrigued by the recent announcement that I asked an ex-Toyota employee who worked in Japan for many years and he noted that Mr. Press comes from the sales organization, not the manufacturing side, so while his knowledge of Toyota in general is great, his battle will also be great if he is to transform the manufacturing operation. At the very least Chrysler is a very big ship to turn, even if it is possible. With a GE guy at the helm, I’m skeptical.
    As a final question Jon; do you think the private equity holders will have the patience for a lean transformation? Or do you think they will pressure Mr. Nardelli for short term gains at the expense of long term health?

  2. Jon Miller

    September 10, 2007 - 12:45 pm

    Hi Erik,
    I think Cerberus is in it for the long haul. If they wanted to make a quick buck, they could have sold Chrysler in pieces, which they may still do, but it’s less likely with the recent hires of Toyota executives.
    If we take them for their word, here is what Cerberus says about their investment philosophy:
    “At Cerberus, we have a long-term investment horizon and focus on value creation. We invest in undervalued companies and their people, and help them to realize their potential.”
    Hope for Chrysler.

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