General Motors Organizational Structure

  • General Motors employs an organizational structure underpinned by multiple regional divisions. As a global car seller, this helps the company account for differences between the various markets it operates in. Each division also oversees support functions such as finance, information systems, purchasing, and logistics.
  • A secondary component of GM’s organizational structure is the two business-type divisions of GM Automotive and GM Financial. The former houses each regional division, while the latter pertains to vehicle leasing, financing, maintenance, and insurance.
  • GM is also supported by numerous corporate, function-based groups that are headed by a so-called Corporate Officer. Some of these groups include GM China, Global Information Technology, Accounting Services, and Global Communications. There is also a 13-member Board of Directors headed by current CEO Mary Barra.

Introduction

General Motors is an American multinational vehicle manufacturer headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, and founded by William C. Durant, Charles Stewart Mott, and Frederic L. Smith in 1908.

General Motors was the largest such manufacturer in the world for 77 years between 1931 and 2008, so it is perhaps no surprise to learn that the company employs an organizational structure underpinned by multiple regional divisions.

Below we will explain this divisional structure and some other aspects of the GM organizational structure in more detail.

Regional divisions

As a global company, General Motors utilizes regional divisions to help it account for differences between one geographic market and the next.

There are five such divisions:

  1. GMNA – General Motors North America.
  2. GME – General Motors Europe.
  3. GMSA – General Motors South America.
  4. GM AMEO – General Motors Africa & Middle East.
  5. GMAP – General Motors Asia-Pacific.

Each division has a regional headquarters which liaises with company headquarters in the United States. One characteristic of this divisional structure is interdepartmental competition, with several GM brands competing against each other in the same market.

After the Global Financial Crisis, however, the company was forced to accept a government bailout and institute a massive restructuring program. Many unprofitable brands were retired and each division was afforded more autonomy to market to particular consumer preferences. Each division now also oversees support functions such as finance, information systems, purchasing, logistics, corporate communications, and human resources,

Business-type divisions

General Motors is also structured around two business-type divisions:

  1. GM Automotive – which houses the five regional divisions noted above, and
  2. GM Financial – this incorporates a broad range of financial services including fleet leasing, consumer vehicle finance, dealer financing, commercial and vehicle insurance, and car and truck extended service contracts. 

Corporate, function-based groups.

The company is also underpinned by multiple corporate, function-based groups that are headed by a Corporate Officer.

These groups include:

  • Global Communications.
  • Tax. 
  • Global Human Resources.
  • Global Business Solutions.
  • Global Manufacturing and Sustainability.
  • Global Information Technology.
  • Global Product Development, Purchasing, and Supply Chain.
  • Strategy and Innovation.
  • Accounting Services.
  • GM China.
  • North America.
  • Global Public Policy.

General Motors also has a 13-member Board of Directors headed by current Chair and CEO Mary T. Barra. 

Read Next: What happened to General Motors?, The History of Tesla, Tesla Business Model.

Types of Organizational Structures

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Organizational Structures

Siloed Organizational Structures

Functional

functional-organizational-structure
In a functional organizational structure, groups and teams are organized based on function. Therefore, this organization follows a top-down structure, where most decision flows from top management to bottom. Thus, the bottom of the organization mostly follows the strategy detailed by the top of the organization.

Divisional

divisional-organizational-structure

Open Organizational Structures

Matrix

matrix-organizational-structure

Flat

flat-organizational-structure
In a flat organizational structure, there is little to no middle management between employees and executives. Therefore it reduces the space between employees and executives to enable an effective communication flow within the organization, thus being faster and leaner.

Connected Business Frameworks

Portfolio Management

project-portfolio-matrix
Project portfolio management (PPM) is a systematic approach to selecting and managing a collection of projects aligned with organizational objectives. That is a business process of managing multiple projects which can be identified, prioritized, and managed within the organization. PPM helps organizations optimize their investments by allocating resources efficiently across all initiatives.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

kotters-8-step-change-model
Harvard Business School professor Dr. John Kotter has been a thought-leader on organizational change, and he developed Kotter’s 8-step change model, which helps business managers deal with organizational change. Kotter created the 8-step model to drive organizational transformation.

Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model

nadler-tushman-congruence-model
The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model was created by David Nadler and Michael Tushman at Columbia University. The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is a diagnostic tool that identifies problem areas within a company. In the context of business, congruence occurs when the goals of different people or interest groups coincide.

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom

mckinseys-seven-degrees
McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom for Growth is a strategy tool. Developed by partners at McKinsey and Company, the tool helps businesses understand which opportunities will contribute to expansion, and therefore it helps to prioritize those initiatives.

Mintzberg’s 5Ps

5ps-of-strategy
Mintzberg’s 5Ps of Strategy is a strategy development model that examines five different perspectives (plan, ploy, pattern, position, perspective) to develop a successful business strategy. A sixth perspective has been developed over the years, called Practice, which was created to help businesses execute their strategies.

COSO Framework

coso-framework
The COSO framework is a means of designing, implementing, and evaluating control within an organization. The COSO framework’s five components are control environment, risk assessment, control activities, information and communication, and monitoring activities. As a fraud risk management tool, businesses can design, implement, and evaluate internal control procedures.

TOWS Matrix

tows-matrix
The TOWS Matrix is an acronym for Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths. The matrix is a variation on the SWOT Analysis, and it seeks to address criticisms of the SWOT Analysis regarding its inability to show relationships between the various categories.

Lewin’s Change Management

lewins-change-management-model
Lewin’s change management model helps businesses manage the uncertainty and resistance associated with change. Kurt Lewin, one of the first academics to focus his research on group dynamics, developed a three-stage model. He proposed that the behavior of individuals happened as a function of group behavior.

Organizational Structure Case Studies

OpenAI Organizational Structure

openai-organizational-structure
OpenAI is an artificial intelligence research laboratory that transitioned into a for-profit organization in 2019. The corporate structure is organized around two entities: OpenAI, Inc., which is a single-member Delaware LLC controlled by OpenAI non-profit, And OpenAI LP, which is a capped, for-profit organization. The OpenAI LP is governed by the board of OpenAI, Inc (the foundation), which acts as a General Partner. At the same time, Limited Partners comprise employees of the LP, some of the board members, and other investors like Reid Hoffman’s charitable foundation, Khosla Ventures, and Microsoft, the leading investor in the LP.

Airbnb Organizational Structure

airbnb-organizational-structure
Airbnb follows a holacracy model, or a sort of flat organizational structure, where teams are organized for projects, to move quickly and iterate fast, thus keeping a lean and flexible approach. Airbnb also moved to a hybrid model where employees can work from anywhere and meet on a quarterly basis to plan ahead, and connect to each other.

Amazon Organizational Structure

amazon-organizational-structure
The Amazon organizational structure is predominantly hierarchical with elements of function-based structure and geographic divisions. While Amazon started as a lean, flat organization in its early years, it transitioned into a hierarchical organization with its jobs and functions clearly defined as it scaled.

Apple Organizational Structure

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Apple has a traditional hierarchical structure with product-based grouping and some collaboration between divisions.

Coca-Cola Organizational Structure

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The Coca-Cola Company has a somewhat complex matrix organizational structure with geographic divisions, product divisions, business-type units, and functional groups.

Costco Organizational Structure

costco-organizational-structure
Costco has a matrix organizational structure, which can simply be defined as any structure that combines two or more different types. In this case, a predominant functional structure exists with a more secondary divisional structure. Costco’s geographic divisions reflect its strong presence in the United States combined with its expanding global presence. There are six divisions in the country alone to reflect its standing as the source of most company revenue. Compared to competitor Walmart, for example, Costco takes more a decentralized approach to management, decision-making, and autonomy. This allows the company’s stores and divisions to more flexibly respond to local market conditions.

Dell Organizational Structure

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Dell has a functional organizational structure with some degree of decentralization. This means functional departments share information, contribute ideas to the success of the organization and have some degree of decision-making power.

eBay Organizational Structure

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eBay was until recently a multi-divisional (M-form) organization with semi-autonomous units grouped according to the services they provided. Today, eBay has a single division called Marketplace, which includes eBay and its international iterations.

Facebook Organizational Structure

facebook-organizational-structure
Facebook is characterized by a multi-faceted matrix organizational structure. The company utilizes a flat organizational structure in combination with corporate function-based teams and product-based or geographic divisions. The flat organization structure is organized around the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, and the key executives around him. On the other hand, the function-based teams are based on the main corporate functions (like HR, product management, investor relations, and so on).

Goldman Sachs’ Organizational Structure

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Goldman Sachs has a hierarchical structure with a clear chain of command and defined career advancement process. The structure is also underpinned by business-type divisions and function-based groups.

Google Organizational Structure

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Google (Alphabet) has a cross-functional (team-based) organizational structure known as a matrix structure with some degree of flatness. Over the years, as the company scaled and it became a tech giant, its organizational structure is morphing more into a centralized organization.

IBM Organizational Structure

ibm-organizational-structure
IBM has an organizational structure characterized by product-based divisions, enabling its strategy to develop innovative and competitive products in multiple markets. IBM is also characterized by function-based segments that support product development and innovation for each product-based division, which include Global Markets, Integrated Supply Chain, Research, Development, and Intellectual Property.

McDonald’s Organizational Structure

mcdonald-organizational-structure
McDonald’s has a divisional organizational structure where each division – based on geographical location – is assigned operational responsibilities and strategic objectives. The main geographical divisions are the US, internationally operated markets, and international developmental licensed markets. And on the other hand, the hierarchical leadership structure is organized around regional and functional divisions.

McKinsey Organizational Structure

mckinsey-organizational-structure
McKinsey & Company has a decentralized organizational structure with mostly self-managing offices, committees, and employees. There are also functional groups and geographic divisions with proprietary names.

Microsoft Organizational Structure

microsoft-organizational-structure
Microsoft has a product-type divisional organizational structure based on functions and engineering groups. As the company scaled over time it also became more hierarchical, however still keeping its hybrid approach between functions, engineering groups, and management.

Nestlé Organizational Structure

nestle-organizational-structure
Nestlé has a geographical divisional structure with operations segmented into five key regions. For many years, Swiss multinational food and drink company Nestlé had a complex and decentralized matrix organizational structure where its numerous brands and subsidiaries were free to operate autonomously.

Nike Organizational Structure

nike-organizational-structure
Nike has a matrix organizational structure incorporating geographic divisions. Nike’s matrix structure is also present at the regional and sub-regional levels. Managerial responsibility is segmented according to business unit (apparel, footwear, and equipment) and function (human resources, finance, marketing, sales, and operations).

Patagonia Organizational Structure

patagonia-organizational-structure
Patagonia has a particular organizational structure, where its founder, Chouinard, disposed of the company’s ownership in the hands of two non-profits. The Patagonia Purpose Trust, holding 100% of the voting stocks, is in charge of defining the company’s strategic direction. And the Holdfast Collective, a non-profit, holds 100% of non-voting stocks, aiming to re-invest the brand’s dividends into environmental causes.

Samsung Organizational Structure

samsung-organizational-structure (1)
Samsung has a product-type divisional organizational structure where products determine how resources and business operations are categorized. The main resources around which Samsung’s corporate structure is organized are consumer electronics, IT, and device solutions. In addition, Samsung leadership functions are organized around a few career levels grades, based on experience (assistant, professional, senior professional, and principal professional).

Sony Organizational Structure

sony-organizational-structure
Sony has a matrix organizational structure primarily based on function-based groups and product/business divisions. The structure also incorporates geographical divisions. In 2021, Sony announced the overhauling of its organizational structure, changing its name from Sony Corporation to Sony Group Corporation to better identify itself as the headquarters of the Sony group of companies skewing the company toward product divisions.

Starbucks Organizational Structure

starbucks-organizational-structure
Starbucks follows a matrix organizational structure with a combination of vertical and horizontal structures. It is characterized by multiple, overlapping chains of command and divisions.

Tesla Organizational Structure

tesla-organizational-structure
Tesla is characterized by a functional organizational structure with aspects of a hierarchical structure. Tesla does employ functional centers that cover all business activities, including finance, sales, marketing, technology, engineering, design, and the offices of the CEO and chairperson. Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, decide the strategic direction of the company, with international operations given little autonomy.

Toyota Organizational Structure

toyota-organizational-structure
Toyota has a divisional organizational structure where business operations are centered around the market, product, and geographic groups. Therefore, Toyota organizes its corporate structure around global hierarchies (most strategic decisions come from Japan’s headquarter), product-based divisions (where the organization is broken down, based on each product line), and geographical divisions (according to the geographical areas under management).

Walmart Organizational Structure

walmart-organizational-structure
Walmart has a hybrid hierarchical-functional organizational structure, otherwise referred to as a matrix structure that combines multiple approaches. On the one hand, Walmart follows a hierarchical structure, where the current CEO Doug McMillon is the only employee without a direct superior, and directives are sent from top-level management. On the other hand, the function-based structure of Walmart is used to categorize employees according to their particular skills and experience.

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