The sudden departure of General Motors Co. CEO Fritz Henderson, just eight months into the job, could be disruptive as the automaker tries to regain its footing after enduring Chapter 11 and everything else that has happened in the past year.
But it might be good for the company's psyche.
As challenging as the need to replace the CEO must be -- and as unsettling as it can be for lifetime GM employees, who fear for their own jobs -- the process also offers a tremendous opportunity. GM's next CEO will have the chance to build a team that can reshape the company and its culture into a friendlier, more vibrant global business.
GM can become a global leader in many ways.
-- Ideally, the new GM will be less insular because automotive wisdom exists outside the company's walls. A new CEO from outside GM will understand that. GM executives should listen to -- even seek -- opinions, information and feedback from outsiders who can help the enterprise.
-- Having had the U.S. government play a significant part in its restructuring process, the new GM ought to forge cooperative, affirmative relationships with governments around the world, putting aside traditional adversarial attitudes.
-- The new GM will want to design, produce and sell the safest, most fuel-efficient and socially responsible vehicles because it is the right thing to do, not just because it's another way to make a buck.
-- There also is an opportunity for GM to rebuild relationships with suppliers, dealers and other stakeholders. Treating your partners like real partners -- not just necessary, subservient parts of the process -- will create a new bond with them. Touching the new GM as a dealer, supplier, consumer, government or investor should be a mutually rewarding experience.
Using the Toyota Way as a template, it's time to forge a "GM Way" that includes the drive to continually improve the company and its culture. With confidence, openness and the determination to be the best in every way, this GM Way can become the benchmark for the world's automakers.
Boosting market share, returning to profitability, repaying the government loans and doing an initial public offering to take the company public are important goals. But recasting the automaker's culture and personality will yield benefits for decades to come.