What Gm Needs To Do

Building teams is a new organization art form for Corporate America. Getting people to work together successfully has become a critical managerial skill. Those companies that learn the secrets of creating cross-functional teams are winning the battle for global market share and profits. Those that don't are losing out.

Take General Motors. Both Ford and Chrysler are picking up market share in the U.S. because each in its own way has discovered how to build product-development teams that generate successful new models. Their method: Bring together people from engineering, design, purchasing, manufacturing, and marketing, and make them responsible as a group for the new car. Then destroy all bureaucracy above them, except for service support.

GM has yet to do this. Its team members remain tied to their old structures--the engineers to engineering, purchasing agents to the purchasing department. Decisions aren't made for the good of the new product but to satisfy atavistic requirements of ancient bureaucracies.

GM's new CEO, Jack Smith, is beginning to move against the auto giant's byzantine bureaucracy, but he has a long way to go. He has cut corporate staff and accelerated the unification of GM's operating divisions into a single North American Operations structure. Smith knows the problems. The question is, can he move fast enough to solve them?