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Jack: Straight from the Gut Paperback – October 1, 2003
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
It doesn't matter whether you love or hate Jack Welch. Who can resist hearing the man tell his story? This abridged version of his recently published autobiography, featuring Welch himself, is quite entertaining. With his slightly raspy Boston accent, Welch discusses his childhood and his career. When he proclaims something, he gives examples to illustrate his point. For instance, he says his mother was the strongest influence on his life. He then recalls the time he threw a hockey stick across the ice in disgust after losing a game, and his mother stormed into the locker room as some teammates were changing to exclaim loudly, "If you don't know how to lose, you'll never know how to win." When discussing his long career at GE, Welch is equally detailed. While some listeners unfamiliar with the corporation may find some of the discussions tedious, most will be captivated by what appears to be Welch's brutal honesty. He talks about having to lobby for promotions because he didn't "fit the GE mold," and he's open about making some poor business decisions. He's not as forthright as it appears, though. He talks about his beloved wife, Carolyn, who provided a stable home while Welch was rising in GE's ranks, but barely mentions their divorce. Still, this audiobook will be interesting listening for anyone who has followed Neutron Jack's career. Simultaneous release with Warner Books hardcover.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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.
The book is a biography from Jack Welch and thus follows the standard chronological form. It starts with his "early years" (chapter name) where Jack describes his childhood and relationship with his parents. From there he goes on about his study and how he joined GE and sort-of hated it because it was such a large and bureaucratic company. He describes his beginning years in GE quite quickly... that is how he got promoted again and again until finally he was in the race for the CEO. The majority of the book describes his years as the CEO, which I guess are the things the average reader wants to know about. As CEO, he describes the policies he put in place, the companies he bought and the programs he ran.
The book confirmed my prejudices about Jack's management style. I found his focus on monetary rewards horrible. The A, B, C ranking a very unfortunate idea that many companies today have copied. His focus on buying on selling businesses uncomfortable. Yet, he manages to explain to himself why his decisions are good and human. But the book also showed an other side of Jack that I hadn't known. The relentless focus on good people and educating them (unfortunately, mostly managers). His effort on removing bureaucracy so that people can focus on actual work. And his attitude of sometimes diving deep in a business to really understand it instead of just managing the numbers. These sides of Jack surprised me and made the book a lot more interesting to me.
Still, I wouldn't recommend the book quickly to others. It does cover a lot of stories very shallowly and it is hard to remember the names. The book could probably be smaller. Also, the book feels a bit too self-promoting at times. I guess the "I'm right!" is simply one of Jack's attitudes that is reflected in the book. Anyways, not a bad book, yet I wouldn't recommend it either. 3 stars.
While I doubt I would have liked to work with Welch, he appears to have been a superb manager. In the book he walks through some of the processes and concepts he used to make his time at GE the raging success it was. I have a small company of less than 40 people to work with, and from time to time I was forced to stop and try to figure out how to make some of the ideas work in my situation. This book has made me a better manager.
Just as importantly it walks through many lively situations around acquisitions, mergers, personell issues, and so forth, whose drama keep you engaged and learning by example.
Buffet was right on this one -- everyone should read this if they have the smallest interest in readying. It's right up there with Andy Groves' book, "Only the Paranoid Survive".