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Ge and Jack Welch Case Study

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GE’s Two Decade Transformation: Jack Welch’s Leadership

Teri Raven, EMBA 709

“GE’s Two-Decade Transformation” analyzes the leadership of Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric. When he took over GE as CEO in 1981, Jack Welch had big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Reg Jones, had been referred to as a “management legend” and been voted “CEO of the Year” and “CEO of the Decade” 3 and 1 times, respectively. Jones had led the company for 8 years and had done well both professionally and politically. Upon his initiation as CEO in 1981, the Wall Street Journal had already likened Welch’s replacing Jones to replacing a legend with a “live wire.”

The business climate was shaky when Welch took over in April 1981, with the economy in recession. Welch had only one option: success. And to achieve success in the current climate, he would need his team to be “better than the best.” In fact, the choices were to be #1, #2, or nothing at all. He soon used this philosophy in his categorization of businesses into core, high-technology, and services.

Welch’s 10 year vision was to lead GE to a state in which it would be viewed as “the most profitable, highly diversified company on earth, with world quality leadership in every one of its product lines” (Bartlett/Wozny); he sought to achieve this via a massive restructuring of the business. His philosophy of “fix, sell, or close” businesses was born, yet the reality was often that in the economic state of that time, most of the businesses ended up closing or being sold rather than being fixed. In fact, in 9 years GE sold of businesses that represented 25% of its total sales. The company, however, was also making acquisitions during that time as GE sought to achieve its perfect portfolio balance.

Welch was shaking up more than his business portfolio during his tenure; he also kept a keen eye on the staff…...

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