Jack Welch knows how to win. During his forty-year career at General Electric, he led the company to year-after-year success around the globe, in multiple markets, against brutal competition. His honest, be-the-best style of management became the gold standard in business, with his relentless focus on people, teamwork, and profits.Since Welch retired in 2001 as chairman and chief executive officer of GE, he has traveled the world, speaking to more than 250,000 people and answering their questions on dozens of wide-ranging topics.Inspired by his audiences and their hunger for straightforward guidance, Welch has written both a philosophical and pragmatic book, which is destined to become the bible of business for generations to come. It clearly lays out the answers to the most difficult questions people face both on and off the job.Welch's objective is to speak to people at every level of an organization, in companies large and small. His audience is everyone from line workers to MBAs, from project managers to senior executives. His goal is to help everyone who has a passion for success.Welch begins Winning with an introductory section called Underneath It All, which describes his business philosophy. He explores the importance of values, candor, differentiation, and voice and dignity for all.The core of Winning is devoted to the real stuff of work. This main part of the book is split into three sections. The first looks inside the company, from leadership to picking winners to making change happen. The second section looks outside, at the competition, with chapters on strategy, mergers, and Six Sigma, to name just three. The next section of the book is about managing your career-from finding the right job to achieving work-life balance.Welch's optimistic, no excuses, get-it-done mind-set is riveting. Packed with personal anecdotes and written in Jack's distinctive no b.s. voice, Winning offers deep insights, original thinking, and solutions to nuts-and-bolts problems that will change the way people think about work.
One oft-heard comment about Welch's generally praised (and bestselling) 2001 memoir, Jack: Straight from the Gut, was that the book skimped on useful business advice. The respected but controversial former chief of General Electric pays readers back double here. Written with Welch's wife, a onetime editor of the Harvard Business Review, the book delivers a brilliant career's worth of consistently astute (and often iconoclastic) business wisdom and knowledge from the man Fortune magazine called "the manager of the century." Welch knows what he's talking about, and here offers an admirably concise primer on how to do business that's a paragon of tough common sense. From practices he employed at GE (e.g., the much-debated differentiation, which includes winnowing 10% of the workforce at regular intervals), to the personal qualities that lead to success (to Welch, candor is essential), to advice on job hunting and how to work with a bad boss, to ways to maximize the budget process (divorce it from performance rewards), Welch comments frankly and by myriad example, with a common touch that will draw readers in ("that was hardly the first time I'd gotten my clock cleaned by the press"). He explains upfront that the book arose as an attempt to codify his beliefs, in response to the many questions he's received at numerous public appearances since he retired from GE in 2001; as such the book has a somewhat lumpy feel, like an overstuffed bag of presents. But the writing, full of personality and ideas, is a model of clarity and insight, even on such dense subjects as the quality control program Six Sigma. It's difficult to think of anyone in business who wouldn't benefit from reading this savvy, engaging cubicle-to-boardroom guide to success; and it's likely, given Welch's reputation and the massive ad/promo HarperCollins is putting behind the book, that enough business people will want to read it to push it toward the top of the charts. (Apr. 5) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 31, 2005
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Excerpt from Winning by Jack Welch
Mission and Values
So Much Hot Air About Something So Real
Bear with me, if you will, while I talk about mission and values.
I say that because these two terms have got to be among the most abstract, overused, misunderstood words in business. When I speak with audiences, I'm asked about them frequently, usually with some level of panic over their actual meaning and relevance. (In New York, I once got the question "Can you please define the difference between a mission and a value, and also tell us what difference that difference makes ") Business schools add to the confusion by having their students regularly write mission statements and debate values, a practice made even more futile for being carried out in a vacuum. Lots of companies do the same to their senior executives, usually in an attempt to create a noble-sounding plaque to hang in the company lobby.
Too often, these exercises end with a set of generic platitudes that do nothing but leave employees directionless or cynical. Who doesn't know of a mission statement that reads something like, "XYZ Company values quality and service," or, "Such-and-Such Company is customer-driven." Tell me what company doesn't value quality and service or focus on its customers! And who doesn't know of a company that has spent countless hours in emotional debate only to come up with values that, despite the good intentions that went into them, sound as if they were plucked from an all-purpose list of virtues including "integrity, quality, excellence, service, and respect." Give me a break -- every decent company espouses these things! And frankly, integrity is just a ticket to the game. If you don't have it in your bones, you shouldn't be allowed on the field.
By contrast, a good mission statement and a good set of values are so real they smack you in the face with their concreteness. The mission announces exactly where you are going, and the values describe the behaviors that will get you there. Speaking of that, I prefer abandoning the term values altogether in favor of just behaviors. But for the sake of tradition, let's stick with the common terminology.
First: About That Mission ....
In my experience, an effective mission statement basically answers one question: How do we intend to win in this business
It does not answer: What were we good at in the good old days Nor does it answer: How can we describe our business so that no particular unit or division or senior executive gets pissed off
Instead, the question "How do we intend to win in this business " is defining. It requires companies to make choices about people, investments, and other resources, and it prevents them from falling into the common mission trap of asserting they will be all things to all people at all times. The question forces companies to delineate their strengths and weaknesses in order to assess where they can profitably play in the competitive landscape.