2005-01-14

Searching for the Deep End at GM Fastlane


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I and many others have noted GM's entry into the blogosphere with Fastlane blog by Vice Chair Bob Lutz.

Since then the news hasn't been so good for GM as we've had reports that GM plans to continue job cuts in North America and the auto-makerwill be issuing another recall, which comes on the heels of a slew of recalls at the tail end of 2004 (here and here). While none of these constitutes a huge crisis for GM, they are noteworthy developments as the giant struggles with market share and profitability in its North Amercia operation.

Over at GM Fastlane blog? A lot of talk about interiors, whether or not the Aura is production-ready, etc. - basically a rolling GM advertisement. No shame in that, but then why are we getting all excited about this "blog?" Admittedly, I'm keeping a close eye on guys like Microsoft's Scobleizer and his Red Couch blog where there is much talk about the potential of blogs for use by organizations. I still don't think I fully grasp all of the possibilities, perhaps no one does, but I'm confident in saying that Fastlane doesn't begin to realize the full potential of this medium.

Personally, I'd like to see some discussion of the strategic landscape facing GM. Will this sell cars directly? No. But what about the next time GM is going toe to toe with the UAW? Fastlane seems like the perfect tool for making some PR inroads.

So what do we get when we click on the "business" category over at Fastlane? The text of a speech Lutz gave in 2002. Ironically managing change was his topic on that day.
"I was asked the question by the organizers of this event, 'Can change be managed?' And the answer is absolutely, yes.

Although I must point out, it’s a qualified 'yes.' It’s like someone asking, 'Can you stop the rain?' Well, no ... but I can bring an umbrella.

There are some things you can control, and some things you can’t. The trick is to control everything that you can, and to use your common sense to prepare yourself, your staff and your organization for the things you cannot control.

It is ironic that GM should pick this topic for one of the first entries on their new blog because change, controllable and uncontrollable, is exactly what GM-North America is struggling with right now. Rising fuel prices, the aging of a key product line, health care costs, product defects and now, it appears, how to master the blog medium are among the landmines facing the auto-maker.

Driving a GM-like behemoth is like navigating an oil tanker. There is a long time between rudder shift and course change, but once realized, you're stuck with the results. Undoing them will be that much harder. So the captain must be wise and sure and able to find the right course through rough water the first time. So far, GM has found the rough water, but seems baffled as to the course changes needed.

I don't expect the GM execs to be great bloggers. I do expect them to be seasoned vets of the auto industry and sharp business minds. Time will tell if they have a clue on either front.

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