Lifetime Achievement Award

Inaugurated in 2016, the Lifetime Achievement Award represents Columbia Business School’s drive to honor stalwart leaders who embody the best of Deming’s teachings and create lasting impact through the practice of their leadership. The award recognizes a senior leader whose practice of principled, ethical, and values-based leadership salutes the legacy of Deming in the areas of management, operational excellence, and continuous process improvement. By honoring outstanding leaders for their achievements and legacy, Columbia Business School seeks to inspire its students — the next generation of business practitioners — to embrace excellence in leadership as a core guiding principle of their practice. 

SERGIO MARCHIONNE 1952-2018 

Chief Executive Officer, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles 2004 – 2018

Winner, 2011 Deming Cup for Operational Excellence

Co-Chair, Deming Cup Judging Committee 

Sergio Marchionne was a renaissance man, and quite simply, one of the best known executives in the global auto industry. 

In 2004, he took the helm at Fiat at a critical time, when the Italian automaker was only months away from running out of cash. This is when he began earning his reputation as a turnaround artist. Within four years, Fiat accomplished a remarkable recovery and recorded the highest trading profits in the company’s history. When a deep recession forced Chrysler to seek government assistance, Marchionne helped forge a global alliance in which Fiat initially took 20 percent ownership. He oversaw the rapid rejuvenation of Chrysler’s product line and championed a lean manufacturing system (World Class Manufacturing) designed to increase worker involvement, improve quality and productivity, and eliminate waste. His crowning achievement was the successful integration of Fiat and the Chrysler Group in 2014, creating a multinational organization that operates in more than 140 countries and employs some 240,000 people.

He was known for always wearing a black sweater over a collared shirt, which he said was the attire of a “simple, homeless metal basher.” He was an enlightened leader, whose first act as CEO was to make sure that the work place, whether at the office or inside a plant, always reflects the dignity that people rightfully deserve. He was a visionary, a man who had the natural ability to see paths no one else could, and the courage to navigate them under the eyes of skeptics and prove them wrong.

Marchionne won the Deming Cup for Operational Excellence in 2011 and became co-chair of the award’s judging committee soon after. He was a loyal friend of the center, whose steadfast support and leadership could always be counted on. He will be truly missed by all who were lucky enough to know him.