Robert Lutz, GM North America

Robert A. Lutz has been a towering leader in the automobile industry for the better part of three decades. What accounts for his stellar record of achievement at BMW, Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors?

“Three key factors—my father, the U.S. Marine Corps and Kepner-Tregoe—were decisive,” reflects Lutz. His father provided the rock-solid value foundation: honesty, integrity, and tolerance; in short, “a feeling for the importance of intangibles.” The U.S. Marine Corps taught Lutz about leadership. “First be an unquestioning follower, then a questioning follower. As you move up the ranks, be intellectually aggressive, goaldirected,
and don’t ever forget ethics.”

And what did Lutz learn from Kepner-Tregoe? “Kepner-Tregoe gave me a disciplined, practical process for getting to the core of an issue. For example, in solving problems Ilearned to look beyond the obvious causes, or just treat symptoms, or put bandages on wounds. It’s far better to analyze problems, get to their cause, and correct them.”

Lutz can recount dozens of examples of how the Kepner-Tregoe processes helped solve some the knottiest problems, ones that stumped even the brightest engineers, “Kepner-Tregoe is one reason that cemented my reputation at GM as, ‘Holy smokes! This guy’s in marketing, but he solves engineering problems.’”

Reduce variability. Increase predictability and repeatability. These are where the rubber meets the road in performance excellence within and outside the auto industry. “Using a systematic thinking process is essential to achieving all three,” says Lutz, “And when you do, you have made a huge step in efficiency and quality.”

And the “cash value” of using the Kepner-Tregoe processes? “It has to be in the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. In terms of advancing my career and getting promoted, the value is probably worth several millions of dollars to me personally.”

Lutz offers this advice to top executives: “If you want your company to become process driven, the CEO and his senior management team must set the example. They must become process guardians. They can’t play this role without themselves using a process approach to solve problems and make decisions!”