Interview on Organizational Development

Organizational Development

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Organizational development is an overall improvement of a company’s productivity and efficiency. Apparently, this is achieved through nurturing the employees of an organization and changing an old culture that made the organization unproductive or improving on an existing culture; sometimes introducing a new culture is necessary. Apparently, OD comes in various forms such as introduction of team building activities or upgrading and improving interdepartmental and company-customer collaboration by improving the organization’s communication system. It could also be through training of employees or the introduction of performance appraisals; all aimed at increasing efficiency and productivity. In order to understand the processes involved in a good OD system an interview was conducted with one of the most experienced OD developers in the Automotive industry and precisely the General Motors company (GM). It is through this interview that one is able to understand the process, advantages, outcomes, positive aspects, negative aspects and the challenges that OD planners face. The following interview took place on 28th March 2017 whereby Mary Barra, the current CEO at GM was interviewed on her roles as OD developer during her tenure as GM’s Human Resource (HR) Manager and her continued OD support as the CEO.

Interviewee full contact information

Interviewee: Mary Barra

Profession: Current GM’s CEO and former HR

Phone Contact: (313) 556-5000

Email: [email protected]

Address: General Motors Company

P.O Box 33170

Detroit, MI 48232-5170

Educational and professional experience

Interviewer: Hello Mary, thank you very much for availing yourself for this interview

Mary: Hi, you welcome and I am honoured to be here and give some insights on my professional experience

Interviewer: As you well know, this interview is aimed at understanding Organizational Development from a personal experience and gathering of views from as expert. You are one of the most experienced and successful organizational developers leading a Multinational Corporation. I therefore think that you are the best choice in helping demystify the processes involved in OD using your personal experience at GM.

Mary: (Smiling) thank you very Much for this opportunity; I hope I will be of the help in outlining what OD is all about in organizations

Interviewer: Could you kindly start by giving us a brief history on your educational background?

Mary: I will not go so deep into my educational career, but I can start at my University level. I attended the Standford University where I graduated with Masters in Business Administration in 1990. Earlier before this, in 1980, I began my career at GM as a GM’s Co-op student. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1985. (laughs out loud and then takes a brief pause) I therefore think I was one of the first ladies to successfully work in such a prestigious corporation and build my career slowly all the way from a co-op student of the same company to my present position.

Interviewer: Thanks a lot for that; could you briefly outline how your professional career has been up to your unexpected current position as GM’s CEO? Apparently, you are the first woman to head a global automotive company.

Mary: umm….let me say that my journey and experience to present day has been long, challenging and also interesting at the same time. Without this long career path, then the experience that I have on OD would have been quite limited. In 1997, I worked as an aide to the then CEO, Jack Smith in helping her with an annual report he was presenting that year. In 200, I became a general director of international communications. The year 2003 saw me shift back to Engineering and I was named the manager of the Vintage Detroit/Hamtramck plant whereby I headed about 3,400 employees. (Takes a sip of water)… I could summarise by saying that since 2004, I have moved from a series of important positions as I continued to stand out as an organizational developer and transformer especially during the time GM was experiencing a bankruptcy period between 2009 and 2011. In the year 2013, I was named the executive vice-president global product; I was now heading over 35,000 employees in over 130 countries. It was then that I was appointed as GM’s CEO on January 15, 2014.

Interviewer: That is very interesting and motivating to many young women and professionals out there…could you please outline what the term “organizational Development” means to you as a professional. What does OD involve?

Mary: umm…there are a number of ways that I understand OD to mean and one of them is the process of changing an organization’s culture so as to achieve efficiency and productivity through technology, research and even from a theoretical management of employees and utilization of resources in a company. I also look at it as the ability to instil long-term changes that will improve the organization’s problem-solving capabilities so as to be able to cope with internal and external forces to the organization. I believe that this is a process that is wide as it involves collection of data on the aspects deterring the organization from succeeding, planning on the actions to take and determining various intervention strategies so as to enhance congruence in the organization’s departments, the employees and improve on their cultures. It is a process that sees to it that creative organizational solutions are created.

Interviewer: How has your OD experience at GM been so far?

Mary: During my stay at GM, I have been involved in various organizational developments and restructurings so as to see that production and sales at GM improved while ensuring that the company kept a customer oriented focus. The first OD process that I have experienced is in Production. In order to simplify production and mitigate costs, GM had to reduce the number of models it made and this resulted to a reduction in its workforce. As a result, there was reduction in labor costs and reduction in inventory; the production was now set at production per order and in market demand estimation. I was also among the team that ensure that job descriptions for managers was tightened in order to increase responsibility and accountability. This was to ensure that changes were noted quickly and made promptly if need be. When it comes to employee relations GM’s management sought to boost the morale of the employees as a transformation strategy. Whitcare, one of the CEO’s who devised the strategy of communicating directly to employees when he needed to execute a new strategy, in this way the employees feel a part and parcel of the company. Another OD transformation was in the company’s branding of its products and thus as a result of stiff competition from Toyota and Honda, GM thus investing in new technology and products so as to keep up with international markets and investments.

Interviewer: What was your role in the OD transformations?

Mary: Thank you very much for that question, I have contributed intensely in most of these transformations by creating a good relationship between the management and the employees. One way to ensure that Organizational development is achieved is by investing in the employees as they are the most valuable assets of any company. In order to keep the high and quality talents I ensured that my employees are well paid and given promotions for any employee who qualifies. The other transformation aimed at developing GM that I participated in is creating a proper communication system between the departments so as to enhance coordination. Moreover, in order to get customer specifications on products, the streamlining of communication system between the company and the customer had to be upgraded. I have thus played a serious contribution in OD processes.

Interviewer: And what were the results of the OD process that you have invested in GM so far?

Mary: Apparently, GM is today’s leading vehicle manufacturer with the most quality products and customer relations. It has thus fetched high profits for the company and since I facilitated these OD processes, GM’s performance has improved tremendously and this led to my recognition as one of the most performing managers at GM thus making the company stand out. The processes in the company have improved and the employees at the company are highly motivated thus boosting performance. GM has been able to compete effectively with Toyota and other competitors in the market and she has remained at the top. Most importantly, the core skills of employees have been improved through various training programs aimed at improving employee’s skills resulting to manufacturing of high quality goods.

Interviewer: What could you term as the positive aspects of OD processes?

Mary: Organizational change is one of the positive aspects that come with OD processes as the areas that need change are identified. It is through OD that changes are effected and implemented. Another major result is growth of the organization as tool that ensures corporate growth. Consumer demands and projections are enabled through OD processes and accuracy in efficiency is enhanced. Most importantly, product innovation is enhanced as product analysis is done with support of the management and collaboration of the employees.

Interviewer: What would you say are the negative aspects that come with OD processes?

Mary: OD processes have some administrative challenges that may derail its implementation. The transformations may tend to add more responsibilities that are not accounted for in the salaries of employees thus leading to some rebellion or intentional underperformance. Without an open communication system, the it is not easy to identity OD needs and implementation strategies. The process is also time consuming and thus without patience, it may be hard to implement.

Interviewer: Thank you very much Madam Barra for taking this opportunity to educate us and advise us on OD processes in organizations. You have been a great inspiration to the public for sharing this information. I wish you all the best and thank you again.

Mary: I am glad to help and thanks a lot for hosting me…(laughing) try to employ OD processes in your company and you will realize a lot of efficiency and performance; thank you too.


Balzac, S. (2011). The McGraw-Hill 36-hour course Organizational development. New York: McGraw-Hill

Cheung-Judge, M.-Y, & Holbeche, L. (2011). Organizational development: A practitioner’s guide for OD and HR. London: Kogan Page.

Hashim, M. (2014). Organizational Change: Case Study of GM (General Motor). Applied Economics and Business Review, 1(3), 78. doi:10.12966/aebr.07.03.2014

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