Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jeff Immelt and the New GE Way

I just read Jeff Immelt and the New GE Way by David Magee.

I love reading books about great leaders. They inspire me. Like what Immelt said "We are never as good as we can be". So I study.

Immelt had a tough and very public act to follow in Jack Welch. From reading the book, I prefer Immelt's style more than Welch's. The book is polite and makes few comparisons but it is easy to glean from reading.

The book is meant to give insights into lessons a leader can learn from Immelt. And there is much that can be learned. Much is simple (one of the goals of GE is to make things simple). EG ask questions and listen to the answers.

Every book I have read about GE stresses the need for details and processes. Part of any companies success is digging in. Doing the work and knowing the details. As a leader, I like to surround myself with people who like the details. Details win.

I liked Immelt's personal strategy for overcoming tough times:

"Commit to learn everyday (you need an incredible thirst for knowledge)

work hard with passion (competence and energy solve most problems)

Give people a reason to trust (the world is more selective today - trust is a differentiator)

Have confidence (Understand that you can make a difference)

Be an optimist (cynicism is corrosive)"

I was impressed that GE never backed off training, even in tough times. I believe tough times are a good time to invest in training. Partly because change is required and training helps foster positive change and partly because usually there is some surplus capacity so staff have the time.

I resonate with Immelt "I'm a learner, and most good leaders that I like are the same way".

GE's core values according to Immelt are:


These look simple. I would have added more definition. EG change for the sake of change is not good. It is "appropriate change" that needs to be sought. Immelt says "constant reinvention is a central necessity".

I liked what Immelt teaches young leaders:

1 - take personal responsibility
2 - Simplify constantly
3 - Understand depth, breadth and context
4 - Focus on alignment and Time Management. (and no I did not make that one up)
5 - Learn constantly and learn how to teach. (and I would add learn how to learn faster and better)
6 - Stay true to your own personal style.
7 - Mange by setting boundaries, but allow freedom in the middle.
8 - be disciplined and detailed.
9 - Leave a few things unsaid
10 - Put people first (interesting since this has not been a GE trait - I agree - see my review of Primal Management)

As a small shareholder in GE, it is tough to be objective since my investment returns have been less than the index. But when I look at the true facts, GE has actually performed well (not the stock - the company). In the 6 years from 2001 to 2007, sales and earnings both increased by 60% while the stock price dropped 7%. And since then, the stock has dropped by 66%! So poor investment.

This said, true maturity is being able to learn from people regardless of circumstance.

The book is well written. Macgee is a good writer with impressive credentials. I will read his other books. It is an easy and quick read.


At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Wally Bock said...

Thanks for the pointer to the book, Jim. And thanks for pulling out the teaching points for young leaders. I've been an admirer of Jeff Immelt for some time, but I admire the GE system that produced both Welch and Immelt even more.


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