Lesson: Technology Couldn’t Save GM and Won’t Save Service

Monday, June 1, 2009 by Tripp Babbitt

With all the advancements in US technology shouldn’t GM, Ford and Chrysler just been kicking the daylights out of all the competition? What lessons can we glean from GM, that at one point owned EDS.  GM had all the latest in software and hardware.  I am not here to dispute there were or weren’t other factors at work that caused GM to fail.  But let’s own the fact that the US technology advantage didn’t make a difference here and won’t for service either.

With regards to GM, I have read on more than one occasion how Toyota (the nemesis of the Big 3) actually saw more failures in technology and pulled them out in favor of manual processes (from The Toyota Way by Jeffrery K. Liker).  WOW . . . that’s an eye-opener try selling technology around that philosophy.  Toyota was always behind the Big 3 in technology, because they understood that it wasn’t an advantage and in most cases a waste in resources.

It’s been a long-time since I have worked in manufacturing, which seems to be dying in the US like a dinosaur.  I have learned over the years that in working with service organizations they are in a frenzy to find the latest technology to give them (gulp) . . . a competitive advantage.  It’s like the "fountain of youth" do you really want to spend millions on something that can’t deliver?

Let’s face it . . . IBM, HP and a host of other companies are making tons of money showing lots to their bottom line.  The promise of technology just doesn’t live up to the hype.  They certainly have lots of money for advertising and boondoggles (conventions, advisory board meetings, etc.). They make you feel good, but fall short of making your service organization better.

A better technology change management program is at hand, a systems thinking approach.  Let’s take a page from Toyota and first improve processes without technology or consider technology as a constraint.  Then pull technology if it will enable the work to be performed better.  Service organizations will achieve corporate cost reductions on from not trying to automate work that is better off being done manually.  Something you will not hear from your technology vendor.

Service organizations have an opportunity to learn from both GM and Toyota.  Which would you rather be right now, GM or Toyota?

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com "Understanding Your Organization as a System" and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt.


Comments for Lesson: Technology Couldn’t Save GM and Won’t Save Service

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 by Jim Graham:
Actually, GM is in a decent spot. A blank slate. Zero (or less than zero) expectations. Leverage to make the hard, right decisions that should have been made and held to for decades (but were not). But I’d still rather be Toyota. I saw a commercial for the Generation 3 Prius on TV last night. I wonder if GM recognizes its idiocy in scrapping the EV-1, yet? Probably to no greater or lesser extent than GM recognizes it shouldn’t have bought the streetcar operators in the late 40’s, just to shut them down in order to drive automobile demand.

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