Learnings from the world’s best CEO

 

business, corporate, tie,manJack Welch is arguably the all time benchmark for high achieving leadership of a mega corporation – the poster child for effective CEOs of the world.

In his final letter to the shareholders of General Electric, Jack Welsh explained why they had been so successful.

Do you know what Jack Welch said was the most important reason for GE’s success?

  • Was it their scale?
  • Access to capital?
  • What about their progressive strategy?
  • Or, the ability leverage their supply chains?
  • How many would vote for their innovation capability?

None of the above. It was that they never stopped learning.

GE was the poster child for the ‘learning organisation’.

“The initiatives are playing a critical role in changing GE, but the most significant change in GE has been its transformation into a Learning Company. Our true “core competency” today is not manufacturing or services, but the global recruiting and nurturing of the world’s best people and the cultivation in them of an insatiable desire to learn, to stretch and to do things better every day. By finding, challenging and rewarding these people, by freeing them from bureaucracy, by giving them all the resources they need—and by simply getting out of their way—we have seen them make us better and better every year.”

It is a concept made famous by Peter Senge. If you haven’t read The Fifth Discipline, please do it.

But surprisingly there are remarkably few companies who strive to be learning organisations and consequently the case studies are far and few between.

To be perfectly honest, I am quite saddened and despondent by the state of affairs.

When you think about it for even a moment, you realise how obvious the truth is.

The greatest CEO of our generation declares it the critical ingredient to success.

I write about those themes here every week – and live and work in this space for the last eight years of my life. (I thought it was a no brainer as far as consulting niches go: find the one thing that all organisations need, is obvious, logical, and is endorsed by the most credible leaders of our time. I was wrong.)

But I will eat my proverbial hat if even one retailer (current or past clients excepted) reading this can come out to say that they have studied what it means to be a learning organisation and they are formally and purposefully striving to be one.

As much as growth, innovation, and change are part of the corporate speak; is it really embedded in the DNA of the organisation?

How honestly you can answer that question will determine if you are around a decade from now.

Have fun

Dennis

Ganador: Learn to Perform

Comments

2 comments

  1. Brett Stevenson posted on September 29, 2014

    I can't help but regard any advice from or reference to Jack Welch as one of the worlds best CEO with a fair bit of caution. In the post Enron era he would possibly be the shining light of a corporate executive who gamed the system for his own greed and personal benefit. His book Winning may have pride of place on the bookshelf of many likeminded but to me it was a recipe for brutal staff management and performance rankings that destroy any sort of morale and teamwork. Its a good read of an era of greed and avarice in corporate life that I hope never resurfaces. A vain hope I am sure. It surprises me that you embrace him so positively Dennis.

  2. Dennis posted on September 29, 2014

    Funny you should say that Brett. I concur with much of what you say, but there is no arguing that he significantly and consistently added value to GE in any way you can care to mention. That is not to say he did not have a mean streak - I think most top dogs (not all) would have that, because getting to that top spot is not easily done. And because he has a mean streak and because not everything he did is worth copying, doesn't mean he doesn't have many valuable insights to offer. Given my particular bias, it is only natural to expect that I would agree with him on this particular insight :))

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