The Blog


Volkswagen’s CEO Management Emissions (sic)

So WinterKorn is gone and about time too!  As Harry Truman was so clear about, whatever happens “the buck stops here”.

What happened at VW appears to have been a complete breakdown in management accountability.  Managers must know what their direct reports are doing. Winterkorn, apparently, did not have his fingers on the pulse of his  organizations   How could such a large and long-lasting fraud be perpetrated in a company of seemingly such calibre. He clearly needed to dive and probe more.  Be more hands on.

It’s easy to say in retrospect, but an important lesson to the many other CEO’s who run large companies

My experience working with CEO’s is that many do not know how to manage large groups of employees.  Often they delegate this management work to HR or a COO and distance themselves – or worse – abdicate from their accountability to manage the company.  To manage a company is to know what is going on.

Where was Winterkorn!?  This diesel scam was too large and had been in place too long for a CEO to miss it, surely? Winterkorn was known as the engineers engineer, and to be hands on in development…the sudden transformation of the diesel engines performance to meet US specifications must have made him questions how at some point.  But what management processes and structure had he put in place to help him.  How did he allow a cultural dysfunction to grow and suffocate the integrity and ethics of a great company.

It is clear he did not concentrate on one of his core accountabilities: to manage his company.  He failed to build a structure of accountability ,where employees were managed and held to account to perform to negotiated goals with transparent measurements of success.  He did not build a set of required behaviours that were enshrined in policy for all employees to understand and hold them accountable to work within them.

Sadly for his employees, shareholders and customers he missed the management boat.  The costs speak for themselves!

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