February 12, 2013
I had the good fortune to catch an interesting interview a couple of days ago with Ed Whitacre, who was brought in as CEO of General Motors in 2009 to turn it around in the midst of bankruptcy filings and a huge government bailout package. Whitacre said when he met with and asked the other execs what had gone wrong with GM, one of them answered “nothing, the economy got us.”
Whitacre went on to explain that the management structure was such that there was no accountability. “It was matrix management to the hilt. Everybody reported to everybody else, therefore nobody reported to anybody. Nobody had a boss.”
In short, there was just no accountability. As a result, GM needed a $50 billion bailout in order to even survive.
How did you make things run better, Whitacre was asked. He answered, “You give people responsibility, you give them authority, and you hold them accountable.”
Once Whitacre instituted a culture of accountability, GM turned itself around and the government’s remaining partial equity stake should repay most or all of the bailout (the U.S. has sold some but not all of its holdings in GM). So one could say that the value of having accountability at GM has been over a hundred billion dollars. We have already explained situations where lack of accountability has cost the Town of Chelmsford millions of dollars in the last few years alone. And these are jus the big ticket items that we’re aware of as outsiders.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of top Chelmsford officials who say that tax hikes of 50% over the past decade aren’t anyone’s fault. The economy got us. Health care costs got us. The state isn’t giving us enough money. Our taxes are rising no faster than most other towns. And so on.
If you think those are analytical answers to the question, “Why are taxes so high and what should we do to provide tax relief,” then vote for the candidates who are tied into the existing power structure. If you think better tracking of expenditures, cost analysis and cost control, better oversight and accountability are more appropriate responses, then you’ll have an opportunity to vote for change on April 2.
Roland Van Liew