GM drove customers into arms of competition

Why is GM (or Ford) a case study of the Canadian disease – protecting the firm at all costs? asked economist Charles McMillan, professor of international business at York’s Schulich School of Business, in a Web commentary published Dec. 2 online on Globe and Mail Update. McMillan wrote that when the late, great Peter Drucker studied GM 50 years ago, he recognized that, while decentralization was important, so, too, was the customer. Unfortunately, for 40 years, Detroit’s concept of the customer too often ignored small models, efficient engines, parts maintenance, smart design, quality engineering, fuel economies and a host of operational details that drove competitors to new heights of performance – not just by the Japanese auto transplants or the European exporters, but by new players such as Hyundai and soon the Chinese. As Drucker, W.E. Deming and other students of the Toyota system show, it is a management challenge to design the right system, not a worker defect or a union problem. That is why the Toyota system can be transferred outside Japan, to Cambridge or Woodstock or Moscow or Texas.

GM is a case study for Canada and Ontario. Increasing the domestic market is only one piece in the global chess game, McMillan said. When are other Canadian industries, from banking to forest products, hospitals to universities, going to learn the ultimate lesson of General Electric – there is the best, and the rest?

GST cut is vote-buying – and ‘eye-popping’, says prof

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper tapped into the national contempt for the GST Thursday, promising to reduce the tax to five per cent if his party is given a chance at power, reported The Globe and Mail Dec. 2. Daniel Drache, a professor of political science at York’s Atkinson School of Social Science, said there are other types of tax relief that more directly target low-income earners. And the sales tax is a huge source of revenue for the federal government. But “people have never liked the GST and it is a kind of in-your-face add-on that people would like to pay less of,” he said. “This is vote-buying and vote-getting and eye-popping.”

Education prof wants to bring electronic games into classrooms

It’s time to bring Game Boy and Xbox into the classroom, says Heather Lotherington, a professor in York’s Faculty of Education, reported The Record of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo in a front-page story Dec. 2. She says the skills needed to create and operate video games, Web sites, cellphones and other technology represent a new kind of literacy. And schools need to recognize and include this new literacy, says the linguistics and education professor. Other professors agree there’s a new definition of literacy. “She’s right on the mark,” said Wilfrid Laurier University psychology Professor Eileen Wood, whose research work specializes in how students and teachers use technology in the classroom.

The seller of green homes cometh

Like Saul on the road to Damascus, York alumnus Elden Freeman was blinded by the light of a vision as he drove his SUV through the chilly streets of Toronto last winter. Now the highly successful real estate agent is preaching the gospel of green, and has a plan to convert other agents into foot soldiers in the environment’s salvation army, reported The Globe and Mail Dec. 2. “I suddenly thought, you know what? This can’t last. Gas prices are going to go up. Any thinking person knows it’s finite,” he recalls. By spring he had traded in his flashy Range Rover for a tiny Toyota Echo. This fall, Freeman launched his business and began strenuously marketing the energy-efficient performance of the homes he sells. The idea wasn’t a total stretch for Freeman, whose family company (he and his mother, Nancy) was ranked No. 1 seller in the Toronto Real Estate Board’s downtown C01 and C02 zones this year. He does, after all, hold a 1987 master’s degree in environmental studies from York.

Choreographer ahead of his time

In the 1980s at the peak of his career, Canadian choreographer Murray Darroch was practically a god. Not only was he handsome, tall and well-built, dazzling of intellect and commanding of authority, his work reached the heights of genius, wrote The Globe and Mail’s dance critic in a Dec. 2 article. Said Andrea Roberts, a York master’s student in fine arts whose thesis subject is Darroch: “What the important European contemporary choreographers are doing today, Murray was tossing off in the 1980s.”

On air

  • York history student Greg Birkett, a youth activist in west end Toronto, talked about his reaction to the shooting death three weeks ago of Amon Beckles, 18, during the church funeral of his 17-year-old friend Jamal Hemmings, on CBC Radio’s “Sounds Like Canada” Dec. 1.
  • Psychology Prof. Jennifer Connolly, director of York’s Lamarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, talked about her new study showing that three out of four teenagers are sexually harrassed at school, on Global TV’s “Global News” Dec. 1.
  • Global TV’s “Global News” interviewed York kinesiology student Sayma Mohammad as part of a Dec. 1 item on young persons torn between their identity as Canadians and their parents’ culture. To respect her parents, the 20-year-old doesn’t date and observes a curfew.