The plant shutdowns announced by General Motors last week are important cost-cutting measures, but cuts alone won't rescue GM.
The company must become much more nimble at designing, producing and marketing the products that consumers demand.
In the past, it has been easy for GM executives to close a few plants, jettison several thousand workers and then go back to business-as-usual.
It can't be that way this time. There must be a strong sense of urgency in every corner of GM's empire.
Whether or not the company's board of directors has delivered an ultimatum to CEO Rick Wagoner and other top executives, they must act as if their jobs - and GM's fate - depend on the speed of the turnaround.
GM also must dump the mass-market prod-uct-development mentality that panders to the lowest common denominator. It has more competitors than ever selling more models than ever. Bland products are commodities. Commodities require deep discounts, and that is a prescription for failure.
GM executives should look across town at the Chrysler group to see how it created edgy products such as the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum. Dieter Zetsche bet the bank on those products, and Chrysler handled their design and marketing with a sense of urgency.
Much of the responsibility for bringing good products to market belongs to GM product czar Robert Lutz. Given the right resources and talent, Lutz ought to be able to make a difference.
Earlier this year, GM increased its budget for future car and truck programs. That's encouraging. Now GM is in a high-stakes poker game. It's time to put the chips on the table.