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Shvoong Home>Books>Biographies>Jack Straight From the Gut (What I've Learned Leading A... ..People) Review

Jack Straight From the Gut (What I've Learned Leading A... ..People)

Book Review   by:VijaiKSharma     Original Author: Jack Welch with John A. Byrne
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Jack Welch is known as the greatest corporate leader of the twentieth century. In this autobiography he provides details of his 40 years working with GE, USA. He is said to have learnt daily from the GE employees, which in his opinion was the real reason for the success of GE. He has dedicated this book to the employees of GE. When he retired in 2001 as the Chairman of GE, it was turned into the most valuable company in the world. This was due to his leadership, creativity, business thinking, personal approach and taking several initiatives. In five sections and 26 Chapters he shares this knowledge and experience. Section 1 describes the early years when self-confidence was built for working in a larger area of responsibility. He has learnt many of his traits from his parents. This section describes about meeting his would-be wife, getting his first job, his initial days and problems at GE, some disappointments and accident in GE when one roof blew off. When one starts thinking himself bigger than life, something brings the things to reality. He describes his feelings about his mother’s death, then his father’s death and his wife’s solid support. Starting from plastics division his career took him to other fields. He learnt a lot, the hard way, by making some big mistakes e.g.in hiring of people .Finally he is selected as the Chairman of GE. He takes over from April 01, 1981. Section 2 discusses about building a philosophy. He organized informal discussions and considered about change of attitudes, culture and creation of better atmosphere. He used the story telling technique to communicate the ideas across the company for 20 years. He presented vision for the company as no. 1 or 2. He discussed about fixing, selling or closing some parts of GE for better strategy and thus several portions of business and product lines were sold off leading to reduction of man power. He also invested in “soft” values of excellence. He believed that change does not happen by a slogan or speech but by putting the right people in place to make it happen. He gives some observations of visits to Japanese plants. Amidst all this, he and his wife Carolyn divorced in April 1987 after 28 years of marriage. Then he married Jane Beasley in April 1989 but they divorced in 2001. In company affairs he hired people from outside, used ABC  analysis for man management e.g. retaining  A category and removing bottom 10 %, prepared “to-do “ lists and made assessments of persons. He would tell his officers that they were the CEO, as far as their people are concerned. He considered himself lucky to be a good teacher. He wanted decisions to be taken on the spot or to fix a time limit for taking the final decisions. He promoted the boundary less idea by removing the barriers among functions and domestic and foreign operations, which was paying off for everyone. This also gave best ideas and practices from other companies. He wanted to “Find a better way every day”. Sometimes he went deep into some issue (which he called “deep dive”), to generate debates, adopt some ideas and for excitement.
 Section 3 describes some ups and downs in the company. GE acquired several other companies.  They had a case of $ 350 million deficit in accounts. GE faced the law suit filed by one of its employees, making all kinds of crazy claims. GE also signed a pact with State Govt. for Pollution Control for river cleanup fund. As per Section 4, ideas flow freely in GE. It has social architecture, which thrives on learning. In 1970s four major initiatives were followed up viz. globalization, services, six sigma and e-business. All have flourished. Surveys of employees were used for setting directions. Author narrates his dealings with Japan, visits to India and continuous push for global growth. GE also continued to enlarge the scope of “services”, especially in medical line. In 1955 he suffered heart attack and had open heart surgery. Help of Larry Bossidy was taken for introducing six sigma techniques in GE. It changes fundamental culture of the company. E-business was introduced in buying, making and selling. Section 5 reports about successful merger negotiations with Honeywell, discusses various functions of CEO and selection of the new chairman. He gives stress on integrity, corporation’s role for community, maximizing organization’s intellect, keeping people first, being informal, self-confidence, passion, celebrations, rewards, differentiation, owning the people, continuous appraisals, culture strategy, competitors, markets, initiatives, tactics, employee survey, upgrading, advertising, chart making, investor relations and speed. If not in GE, he would have been a professional golfer. Epilogue covers some general points and his farewell function. Besides other things it provides 48 photographs and praise for the book from 7 celebrities/magazines.  Also the author’s profits from this book are being donated to charity. His leadership, courage, intellect, intuitive feelings, focusing on people, giving confidence, motivating for performance helped in achieving excellence. It provides true details of the actions for success (and failures) of a famous CEO, which should be read and studied, since these can be helpful for others as well. It should be read with patience and the salient points should be noted down for implementation. This book is useful for every person who desires to achieve success in his organization.
Published: December 17, 2010   
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