What will it take to develop a new story?

On the one hand, GM, Ford, and (Daimler) Chrysler are all in very serious trouble, and Toyota is flying, the most interesting large company in the world today. On the other hand, the media is full of opinions and strategies all constructed inside the very same philosophical structures in which the “big three” have gotten themselves into trouble – blame the unions, finished goods of $15 billion, millions of cars stacking up on lots, deep discounts and advertising campaigns, laying off thousands of employees, considering getting out of the car business, the truck business, sell off the company, … what next?

In a February 14th article titled “In Humbling Overhaul, Chrysler Faces Big Cuts”, Wall Street Journal writers begin, “… Chrysler becomes the last of the Detroit Big Three to abandon hope of growing its way out of problems. Now it has a humbler goal: making money.” The article quotes Tom Lasorda, Chrysler Group Chief Executive, explaining the way that the strategy functions: “We lost money building inventory, and then we lost money trying to get rid of it.” 

We are sure that the management of Chrysler, or Ford, and GM, are not humbled. If they were, they would begin to question the way they are thinking about the mess. 

What is it going to take for the Big Three to recognize that their stories about why Toyota has out-paced, out-flanked, out-thought, out-designed, and bested them in all aspects the running an automobile business are bad stories. Good stories give hints about what to do to change the situation. For literally decades the stories we have listened to from the Big Three have failed to point to new effective actions.