Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book Paperback – 4 Apr 2005
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“Manager of the Century”
“Jack is the Tiger woods of management. All CEOs want to emulate him. They won’t be able to, but they’ll come closer if they listen carefully to what he has to say”
― Warren Buffett, Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway
“An American treasure, Jack Welch teaches us how a leader with keen intellect, guts, and honor can impart courage to people around him, weather unexpected storms, inspire confidence, and take an organization to greater and greater heights. His formula challenges all of us and any institution striving for excellence.”
― Bernadine Healy, M.D., President and CEO, American Red Cross
About the Author
Jack Welch was chairman and CEO of the General Electric Company from 1981 to 2001. After retiring from GE, Mr. Welch published his autobiography, Jack - Straight from the Gut, a #1 New York Times and international best-seller. Suzy Welch is the former editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review, where she worked from 1995 to 2002. She is the author of numerous articles about leadership, managing change, and corporate culture, and the editor of several books on related topics.
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So what is there to be impressed about in terms of Jack's approach? Well, a lot. Like it or not, people as driven by business success as is Jack Welch tend to rise to the top, for obvious reasons. And what is there to actually like about Jack? Infuriatingly, he is right about a lot of things.
Take the work-life balance (obviously not Jack's strong point).`Work wants 150 percent of you, and so does home,' says Jack. Only you, says Jack, can decide what accommodations you are prepared to make to achieve the right balance for your own circumstances and ambitions. In the meantime, what will make your boss consider giving you a bit of leeway that would improve your personal life? An absolutely outstanding performance at work.
In the same way, Jack is scary about his firm belief in `Differentiation'. Just as he classified GE businesses as `Fix, Sell or Close', so the people in his management teams were rigorously sorted into the top 20%, the middle 70% and the bottom 10%. The bottom 10% had to go. If management couldn't actually identify anybody who should leave the company, Jack fired the managers.
All managers carry out this kind of assesment, but generally in a far more private way, sharing the conclusions with a few other top managers and acting on them in relatively subtle ways - a promotion here; an easing out of the door there. With Welch, Differentiation was public policy. Everyone's card was marked; the people whose cards were at the top of the pile got big rewards. The ones at the bottom of the pile were heading for the exit, regardless of circumstance or potential. The process was repeated every year without fail.
Welch is more recognisably right about`Candour' - the need to get straight to the heart of what will genuinely lead to success in business, even if it's uncomfortable for the participants.
Reading 'Winning' may make you wince occasionally (or all the way through, as in my case), but it also challenges managers to look searchingly at themselves and at their business, and to think about what really makes a winning difference.
In the first part - Underneath It All - Welch lays out the substructure of principles to his approach to business. "... the four principles are about the importance of a strong mission and concrete values; the absolute necessity of candor in every aspect of management; the power of differentiation, meaning a system based on meritocracy; and the value of each individual receiving voice and dignity." Each principle is discussed in a separate chapter. In particular his discussions on the subject of candor is enlightening and should be an important lesson to all organizations and industries.
Part II - Your Company - discusses the mechanics of organizations. In the six chapters of this part Welch discusses leadership, hiring, people management, parting ways, change, crisis management.
In Part III - Your Competition - which describes the world outside your organization. The five chapters discuss the creation of strategic advantages, meaningful budget and target setting, growth through mergers and acquisitions, and a discussion on Six Sigma.
Part IV - Your Career - discusses managing the arc and the quality of your professional life. Welch discusses finding the right job (from first job through to the right job at any point in your career), getting promoted, and working for a bad boss. In the final chapter he discusses work-life balance whereby he explains what bosses think about the matter.
The last chapter discusses issues that he was unable to fit into the four parts. He answers 9 questions that he was asked during his tour. They range from questions about his golf game (Welch has stopped playing after 60 years in the game), AIDS through to whether Welch thinks he will go to heaven ("Now, that was a question that stopped me!")
Yes, I do like this book. It is a lot different to his autobiography although he uses some of the same examples. It is straight to the point and the advice is implementable and realistic. It follows a good layout and has some good checklists. There are fantastic one-liners in each and every chapter, but there is not enough room to put them all down in this review. It is not a traditional management book as such since the writing style is a lot different (which is not necessarily a bad thing) and very practical. Highly recommended.
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