This chapter begins with a disturbing thought. It claims that GM was once an informal and relaxed company. I have gotten used to the idea that GM was once the largest defense contractor and that Detroit was once the wealthiest city in the country, though I suspect that claim wilts a bit when you look at New York carefully. Still, the GM I knew in my youth was not a bastion of casual activity.
Still, that is what Drucker claims: “There is little emphasis on title, rank or formal procedure. Indeed, the one thing that is most stressed by all executives is the “informality” that exists in the relationships among the members of this group and in the division of their work.” (p 63)
It is a description that reminds me of the early days of Silicon Valley, when news reports were full of casual clothes and undisciplined hours. At the time, I thought that this approach came from a combination of California weather and money from the military industrial complex. In fact, it probably had more to do with the fact that the reporters were describing engineering complexes rather than production facilities. Engineers have a different relationship to their tools than workers.
Still, this picture of Detroit in the 1940s is not Detroit in the 1970s. If it was true, and I will assume that it was, Drucker is clearly using it to claim that the management of General Motors was a good. It was a good place to work, he is saying, so the management must be good.