The New York Times had a strange picture last week. It was taken during the General Motors annual shareholders meeting in Detroit.
There were six people in the picture, and not one of them, as far as I could tell, had anything to do with making, designing, engineering or marketing cars and trucks.
It was a picture of members of the corporate hierarchy of GM, most of whom arrived on the scene rather recently and have little or no experience in the car business.
Any success GM is having these days is based on work that was done long before the people in the Times picture arrived.
I am sure those executives are making contributions. But when I see the row of them seeming to take credit, I can't help but wonder whether they understand the reason for GM's present success.
When GM went bankrupt, shareholders lost all their money, bondholders lost most of their money, and the U.S. government fattened GM's coffers with billions, which helped quite a bit. Even so, it takes years to learn how to create customer-pleasing vehicles. It's an apprenticeship that lasts for decades.
I guess it takes only a little while to learn how to run a car company.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne cut his teeth on Fiat and saved the Italian company from ruin. Since then he has been very clever and seems to have acquired Chrysler for a lot less than anyone thought possible. Now he is adding sweat equity to Chrysler, which also was able to toss overboard billions of dollars of debt and say goodbye to the old shareholders.
Only Ford seems to have stuck with its old shareholders and bondholders and muddled through the financial quagmire.
I am sure those GM corporate executives are enormously valuable to the enterprise.
But there is an old saying that seems appropriate after perusing that photo: Don't forget who got you to the dance.
You can't praise them enough.