Lee Iacocca's Legacy

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Lee Iacocca made a name for himself by saving Chrysler Corporation from the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1970s and built it into a powerful and profitable firm in short time. Management and manufacturing changes implemented by Iacocca resulted in a dramatic increase in Chrysler's stock price and Iacocca's ego. However, as the cash flowed in during the early to mid 80's, Iacocca lost focus of what made the company successful and he changed Chrysler's growth strategy by investing large amounts of capital in businesses that were unrelated to the auto industry. In the early 1990s, Chrysler again found itself in a precarious situation with its market share and stock price in steady decline. In early 1993, Robert Eaton was set to succeed Iacocca as CEO in a pivotal period for Chrysler. Through an analysis of the strategic alignment framework, we have developed a plan of action for Eaton as he takes the helm at Chrysler Corporation.

Context of the Chrysler Corporation

In the second half of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, the automobile industry struggled to overcome economic weakness brought on by a combination of stagflation, rising fuel costs, regulatory pressure from Capitol Hill and intense competition from Japanese and German automakers. While these events negatively impacted each of the Big Three American automakers, Chrysler suffered the most due to its formal organizational structure, the attitude of senior management, the lack of culture within the organization and an emphasis on tasks centered on financial management rather than car design.

Chrysler's formal organizational structure preceding Iacocca's tenure involved each business line operating in separate silos; the 35 operating units had no communication with each other. There was no formal structure in place to supervise the cross-pollination of information and ideas across business units. The lack of cohesiveness and idea generation impeded management's ability to react swiftly to the outside forces that endangered Chrysler's financial health.

In addition to a poor organizational structure, Chrysler suffered from ineffective leadership. Before Iacocca, senior management was saturated with people who did not understand the auto industry. Management consisted of financial experts focused solely on tasks such as monitoring short-term results and Chrysler's stock price as opposed to a long-term vision and effective growth strategies. This led to a shortage of capital for investment in the design and engineering of new products critical to the future of Chrysler.

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