Management and Leadership of General Mills

Category: Leadership, Motivation
Last Updated: 17 Aug 2022
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General Mills is a food products company operating on the market since 1866. Strengths of General Mills include knowledge, HR, relationships, selling and history. Effective management and leadership is at the heart of organization development and improved performance. In general Mills, the process of management takes place not in a vacuum but within a context of the organizational setting and culture. Applications of organizational behavior and the effective management of human resources are upon the nature of the industry, its culture and climate.

Leadership, Management and Organizational Culture Defined

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Following Armstrong (2003), leadership is the ability of management to induce employees to work towards group goals with confidence and keen­ness. Leadership also implies that the leader accepts responsibility for the achievement of the staff objective, and it is therefore essential for trust and co-operation from both sides to be in evidence all the time. It must be noted that leadership is not synonymous with administrative ability. Leaders embrace coaching, because good people will stay where they feel they are growing and learning. Management: “is the process of leading and directing all or part of an organization, often a business one, through the deployment and manipulation of resources (human, financial, material, intellectual or intangible)” (Management, 2005). The role of a manager is to ensure that scarce resources are combined to achieve given ends. The task of a manager is to implement a particular set of activities to improve organizational performance and productivity (Armstrong 2003).

Researchers underline that organizational culture is a general concept which is difficult to define or explain precisely. Although people may not be aware consciously of culture it still has a great influence over their behavior and actions. There is, however, no consen­sus on its meaning or its applications to the analysis of work organizations. For example, Atkinson explains organizational culture as reflect­ing the underlying assumptions about the way work is performed; what is 'acceptable and not acceptable'; and what behavior and actions are encouraged and discouraged (cited Gratton et al 1999, 36).

The Impact of Leadership and Managers Work on Healthy Organizational Culture

In General Mills, culture is reinforced through traditions, patterns of com­munication, informal organization and stipulated patterns. The positive feature of General Mills is that it uses informal communication method which helps it to achieve strategic goals. It helps to provide satisfaction of employees’ social needs, and a sense of personal identity and belonging (General Mills Corporation 2007). This type of communication creates a specific and unique culture, additional channels of communication and provides a means of motivation (through status, social inter­action, variety in routine jobs, and informal methods of work). Informal type of communication provides a feeling of stability and security and through informal 'norms' of behavior can exercise a form of control over members. The culture and structure of General Mills develop over time and in response to changing social and economic environment (Armstrong 2003).

Leadership and managers work have a great influence on healthy organizational culture and morale. At the beginning of 2006, General Mills announced new leadership structure aimed to improve performance and introduce new HR tactics. Ken Powell was elected President and Chief Operating Officer of General Mills, Jim Lawrence was elected Vice Chairman of General Mills, Ian Friendly was elected Executive Vice President, Chris O'Leary was elected Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer (General Mills Announces New Leadership, 2006). All of these people have unique leadership style and corporate vision which ensures positive culture and high morale of employees.

The important feature of HR management within General Mills is that it encourages individualism. Employees in General Mills are not guided at all times by the primary goals of the organization. Leaders and managers introduce coaching practices and training aimed to develop unique abilities and personal traits of every member of General Mills (General Mills Corporation 2007). The mixed style of leadership employed by most of the organization leaders is effective for employees who need directive leadership which helps them to determine their goals and objectives. They need strict schedule to follow it step by step. It enables performance standards to be set and results can therefore be com­pared with the standard to enable them to see how they are proceeding towards their goals (General Mills Announces New Leadership Structure 2006).

Education and communication might be appropriate if there is a problem in managing change which is based on misinformation or lack of information (Beardwell et al 2004). In General Mills, leaders create an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect between managers and employees, and might well be time consuming if large numbers are involved in the change since it is unlikely that mass briefings of people will be sufficient to communicate effectively. General Mills realizes that such situations are likely to require small group briefings and debate if the communication is to be effective. However, often the direction or process of strategic change lacks clarity, so relying on processes of communication alone is problematic (Gratton et al 1999).

In addition to arrangements for the carrying out of organizational processes, management has a responsibility for creating a climate in which people are motivated to work willingly and effectively. General Mills’ organizational climate influences the level of morale and attitudes which members of the organization bring to bear on their work performance and personal relationships. It is admitted that many new employees differed greatly form the “old” staff (General Mills Corporation 2007). In general, morale of new employees and motivation is connected more with career goals than with team spirit and commitment (Beardwell et al 2004).

Management Support

The four management functions are planning, organizing, coordination and control (General Mills Corporation 2007). In order to maintain and support healthy organizational culture, managers take into account personalities of employees and their needs, strategic goals and aims of departments and corporate ethics.  Plans depend upon the existence of alternatives, and then decisions have to be made regarding what to do, how to do it, when to do it and by whom it is to be done. A plan is a pre-determine course of action which helps to provide purpose and direction for members of an enterprise. The planning process can be aided by working in an environ­ment which is conducive to it. This is important, as plans develop from the lower levels of administration whose reaction and responses may change and help to form plans. Many employees are involved in training for advancement, which must be a con­tinuous process, but the main point is that these activities must produce a spe­cific plan; without plans, planning activities have no real effect. Leaders’ role in organizing and coordination is essential for the long-term survival of General Mills as it helps to determine the most profitable way to allocate HR resources and implement healthy organizational culture (Armstrong 2001).

A control function allows General Mills’ managers to monitor and analyze relations between employees, communication and behavior patterns. Persons in a staff position have no direct authority in their own right but act as an extension of their superior and exercise only 'representative' authority. In general, control is a part of the management process con­cerned with the institution and carrying out of procedures by which the pro­gram is laid down and communicated, and the progress of activities is regulated and checked against targets and plans. Motivating people in small units is about getting them to move in the direction a leader wants them to go in order to achieve a result. Motivation can be described as goal-directed behavior and ability to contribute to a solution.

Positive attitudes towards corporate goals are a part of General Mills’ organizational culture. Given that the attitudes employees hold are important for morale and the effectiveness of organizations, it is important that there is confidence in the measurement techniques used to assess the strength of attitudes (Armstrong 2001). As attitudes are inferred, heavy reliance is placed on the accuracy of assessment. General Mills assesses its employees' attitudes by using attitude questionnaires (self-reporting techniques) are attempting to systematically rearrange and measure these assumptions. It is possible to conclude that staff relationships have a great influence on corporate culture. The highest level of top management helps to establish the overall aims and formulating policy for the organization as a whole. In General Mills, there is no direct relationship between the personal assistant and other staff except where delegated authority and responsibility has been given for some specific activity. This may be partially because of the close relationship between the personal assistant and the superior, and partially dependent upon the knowledge and experience of the assistant, and the strength of the assistant's own personality (Armstrong 2003).


Commitment to the organization will certainly be related to the desire to stay - in other words, loyalty to the company. Following Gratton et al (1999), for many organizations the main problems is that “management doesn’t see the small stuff and how things get done. They are only concerned with the results” (78). To improve this situation, an action-centered leadership approach should be implemented in small units and departments. It will improve morale and create a positive attitude towards organizational culture.

Conflict management is another area of concern for General Mills. According to Armstrong (2001), it might be expected that a healthy organizational culture would be reflected by complete harmony in working relationships, and loyalty and common commitment to the goals and objectives of the organization. The most common type of conflicts appeared in General Mills is a role conflict. A role is the expected pattern of behaviors associated with members occupying a particular position within the structure of the organization. In practice, the manner in which people actually behave may not be consistent with their expected pattern of behavior.  Problems of role incompatibility and role ambiguity arise from inadequate or inappropriate role definition and can be a significant source of conflict. In order to overcome these problems, General Mills should pay a special attention to conflict situation and conflict resolution techniques to ensure positive culture and climate within different departments.

As the main purpose of appraisals is to help team leaders to ensure effective performance of their teams and motivate them (Armstrong 2001). An appraisals procedure should only be used in exceptional circumstances, but helps to establish the credibility of the system and to main­tain goodwill, it is necessary to establish a formal procedure which is clearly understood by all members of teams. Appeals should be made to a manager in a more senior position than the appraiser or sometimes to a representative committee (Beardwell et al 2004).

The two methods for effective teamwork appraisal include granting awards and rating of records. For the latter, graphic rating scales can be used. They permit the rater to mark performance at some point on a line from 'excellent' to 'poor' on separate factors, or an overall judgment. For example, in teamwork - the ratings range from not acceptable or average performance, on the one hand, to a fifth rating of outstanding performance, good judgment, accepted without question. This strategy will help to sustain high level of successful teamwork and ensure high level of commitment and motivation (Gratton et al 1999). The strategies mentioned above will help to improve culture and morale of employees, increase their self-awareness and trust to HR management.


General Mills has a healthy culture and climate which ensures friendly atmosphere and high level morale among employees. The aim of the managers and leaders is to analyze the scope for linking the various practices together as the 'bundle' so that they become mutually reinforcing and therefore coherent. This may mean identi­fying integrating practices such as the use of competency-based processes which impacts on recruitment, training, performance management and reward.  The aim of both ways is to achieve staff coherence and improve motivation. Goals and objectives pursue prof­itability, but this is not by itself very clear for its effective management. General Mills must give attention to strategic aims in all important areas of operations and staff communication. The combination of objectives and corporate strategies influence organizational culture, and may themselves be influenced by changes in culture.


1.Armstrong, M. (2001). Human Resource Management. 8th edn. Kogan Page.

2.Beardwell, I. Holden, L., Claydon, T. (2004). Human Resource Management, London Pitman Publishing,

3.General Mills Announces New Leadership Structure (2006). Retrieved from (accessed 5 Feb 2007)

4.General Mills Corporation (2007). Retrieved from 5 Feb 2007)

5.Gratton, L. Hailey, V. H., Stiles, P., Truss, C. (1999). Strategic Human Resource Management: Corporate Rhetoric and Human Reality. Oxford University Press.

6.Management. (2005). Retrieved from (accessed 5 Feb 2007)


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