We've spent considerable ink on these pages over the last several years extolling the wisdom of former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne and the things he got right: The urgent need for greater industry collaboration and consolidation and much more efficient use of capital are prime examples.
But there was always at least one big thing that Marchionne consistently got wrong — that the rest of his executive team must always match his extreme, workaholic pace. It was an enduring blind spot for the man who pushed FCA relentlessly until the final months of his shortened life.
If recent moves are any indication, it appears Marchionne's successor, Mike Manley, is intent on correcting this misapplied piece of Marchionne's leadership — and FCA's employees and products will be the better for it.
Manley has yet to mark his first full year at FCA's helm, but he's already moved to refocus his own workload as well as those of the rest of FCA's top brass. He hired an outside executive from Amazon, Mark Stewart, to take over Marchionne's former role running FCA's profit-rich North America region.
He stripped away much of the cross-reporting matrixlike management structure built under Marchionne to allow his executives to focus on key missions. And just this month, he hired former Infiniti chief Christian Meunier away from Nissan to take on his old job as global president of FCA's biggest and most important brand, Jeep.
In recent years, running Jeep has been the third-most difficult and important job at FCA. (Keeping the automaker prospering in the black, as CFO Richard Palmer has done, has been its own magic show worth watching.) But the impressive globalization of Jeep under Manley since 2009, as well as his running of FCA's Asia-Pacific region for several years, left little time for rest away from an airplane seat. And that load took a toll on him and his peers.
Selecting Meunier over some very qualified internal candidates should be viewed for what it is: recognition that not every position can or should be filled in-house. Extra executive talent and fresh perspectives can help make FCA a stronger, more vibrant global automaker.
And that's something for FCA executives to think about — on their next hard-earned day off.