Jeff Immelt talks to Knowledge @ Wharton about predictable revenue growth at G.E. (“We look at a recession as a great time to play offense.”), post-Enron accounting (“We’re all going to have to find ways to live in a world that has more transparency and disclosure.”) and decentralizing the organization ( plans to shift “backroom” functions like legal, admin, etc. to the business centers will no doubt cause a number of professional services firms to panic). All-around great stuff.
Thinking about Immelt reminded me of my very own GE CEO story. My dad worked at G.E. for a number of years, and was a Jack Welch admirer. In the summer of 1994, my dad’s birthday was approaching. When I was in school, he had given me a copy of Welch’s “Six Commandments“ – a list of his rules for running G.E. – from a 1989 Fortune story about Welch. These rules are:
- Face reality as it is, not as it was or as it should be.
- Be candid with everyone.
- Don’t manage, lead.
- Change before you have to.
- If you don’t have a competitive edge, don’t compete.
- Control your own destiny, or someone else will.
A copy of those rules hangs in my office, and I knew my dad had a copy he held on to as well. On a lark, I called the G. E. headquarters office, and asked to speak with someone in Welch’s office. I got a woman named Phyllis Piano (another reason I love Google: a search on her name reveals that she is now the VP/Corporate Affairs and Communications at Raytheon) in the p.r. department who said she wasn’t familiar with the six commandments (I had asked for a signed copy), but would “see what she could do.” I didn’t expect anything – after all, I was but a lowly law clerk at the EFF – why should she call me? – but sure enough, the next day she called back. She couldn’t help out on the commandments, but would a signed book be OK?I think I stammered something like, “uh, sure…”
No kidding – three days later, a book signed by the man himself showed up in my office. My dad was thrilled – following Welch’s lead, dad sent a hand-written thank you note – and that was it. Or so I thought. Welch actually wrote back – wishing dad luck with his business, and again wishing him a happy birthday.
Class act, all around. Good to see Immelt appears to be carrying the torch.