Product guys vs. strategy guys vs. finance guys

Roger Martin, the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto in Canada, writing in the Harvard Business Review blog:

Bob is right: the car guys indeed need to be given license to hone in laser-like on customer delight. But the strategists have to help them figure out which customers need most to be delighted. And if both of those folks do their jobs, the counters will have many beans rolling in over the transom. If the middle piece isn't there, not enough beans roll in and the car guys and the bean counters go to war — leaving the customers on the outside looking in, as Bob correctly points out.

By Bob he means Bob Lutz, former Vice Chairman at General Motors Company amongst other high profile posts at various car manufacturers. The article is referencing a book by Lutz titled "Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business" in which he writes about the opposing priorities between different departments and the impact these differences can have in a company's future. The product description for the book at Amazon explains it succinctly:

In 2001, General Motors hired Bob Lutz out of retirement with a mandate to save the company by making great cars again. He launched a war against penny pinching, office politics, turf wars, and risk avoidance. After declaring bankruptcy during the recession of 2008, GM is back on track thanks to its embrace of Lutz's philosophy.

When Lutz got into the auto business in the early sixties, CEOs knew that if you captured the public's imagination with great cars, the money would follow. The car guys held sway, and GM dominated with bold, creative leadership and iconic brands like Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, GMC, and Chevrolet.

But then GM's leadership began to put their faith in analysis, determined to eliminate the "waste" and "personality worship" of the bygone creative leaders. Management got too smart for its own good. With the bean counters firmly in charge, carmakers (and much of American industry) lost their single-minded focus on product excellence. Decline followed.

It's a great book and the post by Roger Martin is thought provoking.