3. An Absence of Candor

“Don’t be afraid of opposition. Remember, a kite rises against, not with, the wind.”

—Hamilton Wright Mabie

On January 21, 1988, General Motors Executive Vice President Elmer Johnson wrote a startling 25-page treatise describing the vast challenges the company was facing. GM’s market share had fallen from nearly 50% in the 1960s to roughly 35% in the late 1980s. Johnson described the external threats the firm faced, but he argued, “Our most serious problem pertains to organization and culture.”1 He criticized the rigid and insular mindset of senior executives. Johnson explained one of the core challenges at GM:

The meetings of our many committees and policy groups have become little more than time-consuming formalities. ...

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