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on November 10, 2015
A well researched and reality-based view on the aims, actions, character, and the results of Welch's tenure at GM. Missing is the false rah-rah cheering that you get from Welch's books and the uninformed media. O'Boyle is restrained in his book but presents enough documented material to help the reader see through to what really happened with GM during the Welch years.
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on December 2, 1998
The public perception of Jack Welch's tenure at General Electric has been that he focused business effort on his company's core competencies, and thus rewarded the long term shareholder with great financial returns. Tom O'Boyle peers behind the curtain to reveal the darker side of Wizard Welch and his disastrous tenure at one of America's great industrial treasures. Yes, Welch increased GE's stock value; but Welch did it with a draconian management style that failed to pay all of the bills along the way. It is easy to look rich when you don't pay your bills.
O'Boyle identifies some of the unpaid bills, including:
1) The human cost of GE's massive layoffs througout the 1980's. Welch embraced and greatly popularized the "layoff" approach to business: lay off bodies, save money, show more profit. But for every dollar the company profited, others lost. Much of the cost of the layoffs fell on individuals, families and communities that saw jobs at US-based GE operations vanish. This caused untold hardship to both families and governments, which had to rebuild shattered lives and communities. Not all survived, literally.
2) Welch took a rich and deep GE culture of research and development into technological fields, and utterly gutted it. GE's R&D abilities formerly covered a spectrum from steam turbines to appliances to jet engines to railway locomotives. Under Welch, GE's R&D arm became so weak and atrophied that the company's product lines lost the once commanding technological lead they formerly enjoyed. The company's future is betrayed. (Not satisfied with merely gutting GE's R&D, Welch purchased RCA and stripped its assets as well. Only NBC television remains in the GE fold as a major, former-RCA asset. Shockingly, NBC spends more each year to broadcast basketball games than GE spends on R&D. It is so sad, when you think that the only man-made object ever to leave the solar system, Voyager spacecraft, carries a camera that bears the RCA logo.)
3) GE's continuing failure to clean up the PCB's and radioactivity it has left behind in its numerous manufacturing operations; while at the same time making a business unit out of cleaning up PCB's and other pollution for other customers. The unpaid bills also do not include the people who remain afflicted with industrial illnesses from their exposure to chemicals in the GE workplaces over the years.
These are just a few of the topics. The book is profound, and will shock the unitiated. O'Boyle is a historian of American industrial history. He takes the reader on a trip through time, from the laboratories of Edison; to the early workshops of Ford; to the mills of Carnegie; to Tom Watson's IBM; to Rickover's nuclear navy; and so much more.
O'Boyle spent eleven years with the Wall Street Journal, and he knows how to dig out the story and tell it in the best journalistic style. Also, as the notes reveal, O'Boyle has met and talked with many of the luminaries and leaders of American and European industry of this era. O'Boyle has captured the essence of an American tragedy, which was GE's abandonment of its research-oriented, manufacturing legacy to satisfy the ego of one man.
Jack Welch started at GE selling plastics, and he has become his own product. It seems that Jack Welch, who came into control of one of the nation's greatest industrial enterprises, really wanted only to run a credit card company as his life's ambition. Today he has his wish, but the nation has lost.
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