Wednesday, October 14, 2020

What happened to GE?

The fall of GE seems an under-reported story. One of the great corporations in US history -- a one-time perennial on the Most Admired Companies" lists -- is now only a shell of its former self. Even more interesting is that the vaunted "GE Way" of Jack Welch is relegated to the limbo that is the fate of all management fads.

Not that it is necessarily undeserved:

The collapse of previous leadership certainties is clearly demonstrated by the fate of the post-Jack-Welch generation at the famous leadership academy that was GE. As INSEAD’s Yves Doz pointed out, neither of the two unsuccessful candidates for Jack Welch’s job was a success elsewhere. By imposing the GE playbook on it, Jim McNerney ‘nearly killed’ 3M. The tenure of Robert Nardelli at Home Depot was similarly undistinguished. As for GE, the conglomerate last year did the unthinkable by appointing its first leader from outside the company. The common error, said Doz, was an ‘over-structured’ approach to leadership, over-reliant on GE’s well-grooved processes and systems. [source]
In Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann chronicle the unraveling of GE under Jeffrey Immelt and the travails of his successor, John Flannery. It is a journalistic account: it has plenty of interesting stories but is lacking in analytical rigour. Bob Woodward rather than Peter Drucker.

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