•Read the following article about 'Go-Fast', a cost-saying programme introduced by the car manufacturer General Motors, and the questions on the opposite page.
•For each question (15-20), mark one letter (A, B, C or D) on your Answer Sheet.
Somewhere today, a group of staff from General Motors will meet as part of the 'Go-Fast' programme, and hammer out a new initiative to cut costs and bureaucracy. They may focus only on wiper-blades, or staff appraisal, or showroom design. But by this afternoon, there should be an outline savings plan, which will, when implemented, be measured carefully for signs of success. The aim is to transform. GM from a lumbering leviathan into the corporate equivalent of a sports car. The intention is not just to be big - GM is one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world - but to be fast, particularly in its responsiveness to the market. The success of the programme is reflected in the large number of suggestions being introduced - far more than in the old days, when every change had to come from senior managers focusing on the 'big picture'.
The progress made has trans- formed investor perceptions of GM. Before the Go-Fast programme was introduced, the conventional wisdom was that GM's market share was in permanent free fall and its organisation incapable of doing anything about it. Now, the decline has been turned around, and the senior managers' change of approach has led to the company being energised with a winning spirit that has unlocked long-dormant capabilities. That it took a firm of consultants to help devise the programme is perhaps a sad reflection of the danger of corporate thinking becoming inflexible.
The shareholders' support of GM's strategy to become more outward-looking and innovative is some- thing of a luxury, though in the long run success would convince even the most sceptical shareholders. The strategy includes beating down on costs and extracting maximum synergies from GM's numerous alliance partners, such as its tooling suppliers, and exchanging ideas and management tools with other corporations of widely differing sizes, sectors and nationalities. Having such input is one thing, but its value would be undermined without a coherent mechanism to put ideas into practice, and this is where the consultants proved invaluable.
In the car industry, however, there was plenty of scepticism about the programme when it was first announced, with many convinced that only much smaller organisations stood a reasonable chance of making such a transformation, particularly when it involved changes to the company culture. Surprisingly, perhaps, this fear was not shared by the consultants who helped senior management to design the programme and, crucially, effect a change in leader- ship skills; rather, they were more concerned about the impact that pockets of opposition within GM might have.
The results of the scheme so far give rise to cautious optimism. No aspect of GM's work can hide from scrutiny, and initial fears of a lack of 'joined-up thinking' about the impact of one change on other areas soon dissipated, as the 'leadership panels' responsible for approving and implementing changes took a broader view. But while internal management has improved dramatically, many analysts are sceptical that the initiatives can outweigh GM's mountainous pension obligations. The company is still suffering the effects of poor decisions in the past, such as the choice of certain alliance partnerships, and a major change of strategy might be necessary to recover from these. If this were to take place, the company's core car manufacturing would need to be much more firmly rooted than it is at present, to ensure it didn't suffer from lack of focus. However, the architects of the scheme are confident that GM will be far more outward-looking and innovative in the near future.
A．The intention behind it is to increase GM's market share.
B．Suggestions need to be agreed by senior managers.
C．All areas of business are examined for possible improvements.
D．Senior managers are excluded from the initial discussions.