Lean Blog Interviews — Bob Lutz on “Car Guys vs. Bean Counters”

My guest for Podcast #126 is Bob Lutz, author of the book Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. Retiring in late 2010 as vice chairman of General Motors, he currently runs Bob Lutz Communications. During his 47-year career in the auto industry, he worked for GM, Ford, BMW, and Chrysler and he’s a legend in Detroit, where I grew up. In this podcast, we discuss his new book, his thoughts on designing products that create value and excitement for customers, as well as some of his thoughts on leadership. Bob’s a “car guy” and a designer through and through, so what he says isn’t always classic “lean thinking,” but it’s interesting and thought provoking. What’s a “blanderizer”? You’ll have to listen (or read) to find out. I hope you’ll take a listen and/or read the transcript below. Be sure to share your thoughts and reactions by posting a comment on this post. I have my own thoughts and reactions, which I’ve added as comments to the transcript – notated by [MG1]. As I wrote about in my preview post, Lutz says he is a fan of “autocratic” leadership, saying that the pendulum had swung too far during the “total quality” era toward too much slow consensus building and too much employee participation. In talking with him, much of what he’s complaining about isn’t what we’d recognize as Lean or Toyota thinking, but it’s perhaps a reaction to the way the “Detroit Three” were using these TQM ideas in dysfunctional or extreme ways. He says we need more autocratic leadership, yet he doesn’t think he’s an autocratic leader, nor would he want to work for one. Interesting stuff. To point others to this, use the simple URL: www.leanblog.org/126. You can leave comments there, as well. For earlier episodes of the Lean Blog Podcast, visit the main Podcast page at www.leanpodcast.org, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS or via Apple iTunes. If you have feedback on the podcast, or any questions for me or my guests, you can email me at leanpodcast@gmail.com or you can call and leave a voicemail by calling the “Lean Line” at (817) 776-LEAN (817-776-5326) or contact me via Skype id “mgraban”. Please give your location and your first name. Any comments (email or voicemail) might be used in follow ups to the podcast.