Case Study

Honeymoon interrupted: Mary Barra, CEO, GM (B)

5 pages
June 2014
Reference: IMD-7-1566

It had been two months since Mary Barra had faced two days of questioning in both the US Senate and House of Representatives. After a no-holds-barred investigation by Anton Valukas of Jenner & Block, the report into the ignition switch fault at GM was made public. It made grim reading – showing a company with a deeply troubled culture, including rigid silos, lack of accountability, and skewed priorities. Based on the report, Barra announces firings and other measures.

Learning Objective

1) To illustrate the challenges facing a newly-appointed CEO facing a major crisis. 2) To highlight how a company’s culture can distort organizational decision-making and contribute to a major safety failure costing lives. 3) To explore the extent to which the failure was a “predictable surprise” and how it might have been avoided. 4) To discuss how to approach changing a “toxic” culture in a large and complex organization.

Transition, Chief Executive Officer, Succession
Northern America, United States of America
General Motors, Automotive, Automobiles
April to June 2014
Published Sources
© 2014
Available Languages
Case clearing houses
IMD case studies are distributed through case clearing houses. In order to browse the collection and purchase copies please visit the links below.

The Case Centre

Cranfield University

Wharley End Beds MK43 0JR, UK
Tel +44 (0)1234 750903
Email [email protected]

Harvard Business School Publishing

60 Harvard Way, Boston MA 02163, USA
Tel (800) 545-7685 Tel (617)-783-7600
Fax (617) 783-7666
Email [email protected]

Asia Pacific Case Center

NUCB Business School

1-3-1 Nishiki Naka
Nagoya Aichi, Japan 460-0003
Tel +81 52 20 38 111
Email [email protected]


Research Information & Knowledge Hub for additional information on IMD publications

Discover our latest research
IMD's faculty and research teams publish articles, case studies, books and reports on a wide range of topics