Jack Welch and the G.E. Way: Management Insights and Leadership Secrets of the Legendary CEOby Robert Slater, Vince Lombardi
Behind the scenes with the legendary CEO
Jack Welch’s innovative leadership strategies revived a lagging GE, transforming it into a powerhouse with a staggering $300 billion-plus market capitalization. In writing Jack Welch and the GE Way, author Robert Slater was given unprecedented access to Welch and other prominent GE insiders. What emerged is a
Behind the scenes with the legendary CEO
Jack Welch’s innovative leadership strategies revived a lagging GE, transforming it into a powerhouse with a staggering $300 billion-plus market capitalization. In writing Jack Welch and the GE Way, author Robert Slater was given unprecedented access to Welch and other prominent GE insiders. What emerged is a brilliant portrait that tells you what makes Jack Welch tick. Learn how to work the Welch magic on your own company as you find out how he dismantled the boundaries between management layers, between engineers and marketers, between GE and its customers to streamline the process of getting products and services to market.
Get details on Welch’s far-reaching Six Sigma quality initiative, and discover how its principles and standards can save billions of dollars...how and why he has made GE a truly global company (and why you must think global as well)...and all the other Welch "midas touch" strategies you can put to work in your organization, at every level!
- McGraw-Hill Companies, The
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Read an Excerpt
Chapter 17: Create An Atmosphere Where Workers Feel Free to Speak OutAt First, as the Work-Out program got under way, the invisible walls between managers and employees remained firmly in place, inhibiting a free-flowing dialogue. The chains of history and tradition were too strong to be sundered so quickly. Employees had no experience in advising bosses on how to improve the business-and no previous incentive to do so. It just hadn't been done before. So, at the start, there were many awkward silences.
But here and there, the concept of Work-Out began to catch on.
It began with someone having the courage to ask a question-and with a manager being willing to answer the question and change policy on the spot. Once the ice was broken, others in the audience overcame their timidity and raised their hands as well.
Work-Out was catching on at some of the GE businesses, but in the beginning there was no shortage of problems.
Union members, who naturally harbored suspicions whenever company executives came forward with an idea, any idea, viewed Work-Out with their usual skepticism. Some called the program "Jobs-Out" or "Heads-Out," convinced that Welch and his senior colleagues had a far more sinister goal for Work-Out. They were convinced that Welch sought to cut payrolls, not learn from workers on how to improve the company.
But it didn't take long for even these union members-as well as the other participants-to understand that Work-Out was no ordinary flavor-of-the-month management fad. They soon realized that Welch actually meant it when he declared that he wanted to tam over decisionmaking power to the workers.
Of course, not every Work-Out session ran like clockwork-, in some sessions, the program was little more than a glorified opportunity for workers to squeal on one another for such infractions as reading a newspaper or "hiding behind" a machine all day instead of working. But in other sessions, the boss was quickly put on the spot.
That's what happened to Armand Lauzon, the head of plant services at the GE Aircraft Engines factory in Lynn, Massachusetts.
We Have 108 Proposals for You
When Armand Lauzon was invited into the room to face Work-Out attendees on the third and final day of the session, he was forced to stand with his back to his boss. One by one, the recommendations of the group were placed before him for one of those three answers (yes, no' or I need more information), and it was clear to him that he was not supposed to make eye contact with his boss.
The group put 108 proposals in front of Lauzon that day, ranging from designing a plant-services insignia as a morale booster to constructing a new tinsmith shop. He said yes on the spot to 100 of the 108 proposals! One proposal was to let Lynn's employees bid against an outside vendor on new protective shields for grinding machines; evidently, an hourly worker had sketched the design for the shields on a brown paper bag. Lynn won the bid for $16,000, far lower than the vendor's quoted $96,000. The shields proposal was considered an ideal Work Out result: It saved GE money and brought work to the Lynn plant. This was no small feat for Lynn, since their employee rolls had been downsized by over 40 percent-from 14,000 in 1986 to 8,000 five years later.
One electrician felt no qualms about confronting his boss: "When you've been told to shut up for twenty years and someone tells you to speak up, you're going to let them have it." Not only did employee Work-Out proposals save GE $200,000 that year; they saved jobs as well.
Rattlers and Pythons
At some Work-Out sessions the facilitator broke work issues into two categories.
Rattlers and Pythons.
Raiders were the simple problems, the ones that could be "shot" like a dangerous rattlesnake, and solved on the spot.
Pythons were issues too complicated to unravel right away, just as no one could easily unravel a python entwined on itself.
One "rattler" involved a young woman who had been publishing a popular plant newspaper, but in doing so had encountered a wall of bureaucracy. GE policy required her to obtain an astounding seven signatures every month in order to get her newspaper published. She pled her case emotionally: "You all like the plant newspaper. It's never been criticized. It's won awards. Why does it take seven signatures?"
Her boss stared at her in amazement. "This is crazy. I didn't know that was the case."
"Well, that's the way it is," she replied.
"OK," the general manager said, "from now on, no more signatures."
The newspaper editor beamed.
Another factory worker tossed out another rattler. "I've worked forover twenty years, I have a perfect attendance record. I've won management awards. I love this company. It's put my kids through college. It's given me a good standard of living. But there's something stupid that I'd like to bring up."
The man operated a valuable piece of equipment that required him to wear gloves....
Meet the Author
Robert Slater has written a number of bestselling business books, including Ovitz: The Inside Story of Hollywood's Most Controversial Powerbroker, Get Better or Get Beaten: 31 Leadership Secrets from GE's Jack Welch, The New GE: How Jack Welch Revived an American Institution, and Soros: The Life, Times & Trading Secrets of the World's Greatest Investor.
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