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Jack: Straight from the Gut Hardcover – September 11, 2001
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It's hard to think of a CEO that commands as much respect as Jack Welch. Under his leadership, General Electric reinvented itself several times over by integrating new and innovative practices into its many lines of business. In Jack: Straight from the Gut, Welch, with the help of Business Week journalist John Byrne, recounts his career and the style of management that helped to make GE one of the most successful companies of the last century. Beginning with Welch's childhood in Salem, Massachusetts, the book quickly progresses from his first job in GE's plastics division to his ambitious rise up the GE corporate ladder, which culminated in 1981. What comes across most in this autobiography is Welch's passion for business as well as his remarkable directness and intolerance of what he calls "superficial congeniality"--a dislike that would help earn him the nickname "Neutron Jack." In spite of its 496 pages, Jack: Straight from the Gut is a quick read that any student or manager would do well to consider. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards
"...a book that almost everyone still interested in business...can't afford to ignore...a very good yarn..." -- Wall Street Journal, 9/21/01
"...will be of interest to anyone who really cares about business..." -- New York Newsday, 10/8/01
"All CEOs want to emulate him...they'll come closer if they listen carefully to what he has to say." -- Warren Buffett, Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway
"An American treasure...teaches us how a leader with keen intellect, guts, and honor can impart courage to people around him..." -- Bernadine Healy, M.D., President and CEO, American Red Cross
"Jack Welch...has finally disclosed his mysteries of management..." -- Nobuyuki Idei, Chairman and CEO, Sony Corporation
"Jack's vision and courage...and, of course, his success, make him the role model of entrepreneurs and managers worldwide." -- Dr. Thomas Middelhoff, Chairman of the board, Bertelsmann AG
"Jack...took an industrial giant and turned it into an industrial colossus with a heart and a soul and a brain." -- Michael D. Eisner, Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company
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The language isn't formal, academic, or even moderated. If you're offended by the occasional use of foul language, you'll be offended on a few occasions, Jack tells it how it is. He recounts his climb through the ranks of General Electric, and how he managed to create the vision that led to GE's success.
The book is an autobiography, and there's not a lot of dissenting view points. While Jack does mention that some of his decisions were unpopular, and how some of his actions were flops, the analysis of why these ventures failed are always introspective. That doesn't allow for a complete picture of GE's history during Jack's tenure with the company, but for those of us who aren't working for (or competing against) them, it suffices.
More importantly, it's enjoyable. There are a few nuggets of wisdom (giving 'stretch' promotions at the beginning of a career, the No 1 / No 2 philosophy, encourage big swings and never punish a big miss) contained within the book, but it's not a management philosophy text book.
You aren't likely to find any profound quotes or revalations contained in these pages; and if you can manage that expectation, then this book is a fantastic read.
PhD IN CHEMISTRY: earned this from University of Illinois before starting his career in business which ended up being primarily focused on working for and managing General Electric.
This allowed him to really understand many of GE's products when needed during his 41 year tenure.
DO THE RIGHT THING: even when you have to put your job at risk. Doesn't make sense to do the wrong thing just so as to not "rock the boat"
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT OF THE WORKFORCE; one way to do this is to fire the bottom 10% of employees on a yearly basis. This earned him the nickname of "Neutron Jack" even though he always tried these workers other positions within the
company and not with competitors.
QUINTUPLE HEART BYPASS: was performed just a few years ago after suffering angina pains for about 15 years.
AVID GOLFER: all of his life with a very low handicap.
EMBRACED QUALITY: throughout the company with a 6 Sigma program.
CONTINUALLY DEVELOP WORKERS to maintain productivity. Hired outside talent as needed.
MEASURE ALL BUSINESS UNITS using ROI calculations in addition to revenue and profits.
BUY OR SELL BUSINESS UNITS: in order to grow a business or cut losses as needed
GE PURCHASES: over $50B worth of goods and services on a yearly basis
OVERHEAD EXPENSES: reduced by 30% or $10B by fully implementing
digital control of all processes including the use of the Internet.
EMPLOYMENT: over 300,000 workers worldwide.
MARRIED 3 TIMES: currently living in Boston with a young wife and her 4 children.
FUTURE PREDICTIONS: China represents the biggest competitor which will drive most non performing companies out of business.
Everyone who has ever been involved with corporate politics know that such conflicting objective is highly unlikely if not impossible to obtain. Wouldn't YOU fear the management and feel initmidated when you KNOW the mangement must cut or replace 10% of their staff every year? Such style of management is using intimidation and fear to bring out the results from people, pure and simple. For Jack Welch to deny this is being disingenuous and or he is "kidding himself" (which is something he preaches one should never do).
Unfortunately, one book is insufficient to go into a meaningful level of detail and tell the stories of all these different events in a compelling way. Consider that whole books such as "Barbarians at the Gate" focus on individual similar acquisitions or initiatives to tell the story well. One chapter each for huge subjects like the attempted Honeywell acquistion just doesn't cut it. What you get is a brief outline of the events including the list of people who helped him move the initiative forward. He will then tell you what these people went on to accomplish in their careers. You won't care, though, because you never get to know these men in a meaningful way. They are just names. Almost every person in this book is two dimensional including Jack himself.
I've followed Jack Welch's career in the pages of Business Week and other publications virtually his entire time as chairman of GE. I was expecting to learn about the man behind those stories. Instead, I read a rehash of those stories with very little additional detail. His family life and divorce are given almost no mention. Indeed, any difficult or defining moments on a purely personal level are few and far between here.
I would only recommend this book if you know very little about Mr. Welch and are interested in his career and accomplishments. It is not a management textbook, nor is it much of a biography. It simply skims the surface of the career of perhaps the greatest CEO of the 20th century.