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Winning Hardcover – April 5, 2005
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If you judge books by their covers, Jack Welch's Winning certainly grabs your attention. Testimonials on the back come from none other than Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rudy Giuliani, and Tom Brokaw, and other praise comes from Fortune, Business Week, and Financial Times. As the legendary retired CEO of General Electric, Welch has won many friends and admirers in high places. In this latest book, he strives to show why. Winning describes the management wisdom that Welch built up through four and a half decades of work at GE, as he transformed the industrial giant from a sleepy "Old Economy" company with a market capitalization of $4 billion to a dynamic new one worth nearly half a trillion dollars.
Welch's first book, Jack: Straight from the Gut, was structured more as a conventional CEO memoir, with stories of early career adventures, deals won and lost, boardroom encounters, and Welch's process and philosophy that helped propel his success as a manager. In Winning, Welch focuses on his actual management techniques. He starts with an overview of cultural values such as candor, differentiation among employees, and inclusion of all voices in decision-making. In the second section he covers issues around one's own company or organization: the importance of hiring, firing, the people management in between, and a few other juicy topics like crisis management. From there, Welch moves into a discussion of competition, and the external factors that can influence a company's success: strategy, budgeting, and mergers and acquisitions. Welch takes a more personal turn later with a focus on individual career issues--how to find the right job, get promoted, and deal with a bad boss--and then a final section on what he calls "Tying Up Loose Ends." Those interested in the human side of great leaders will find this last section especially appealing. In it, Welch answers the most interesting questions that he's received in the last several years while traveling the globe addressing audiences of executives and business-school students. Perhaps the funniest question in this section comes at the very end, posed originally by a businessman in Frankfurt, who queried Welch on whether he thought he'd go to heaven (we won't give away the ending).
While different from the steadier stream of war stories and real-life examples of Welch's first book, Winning is a very worthwhile addition to any management bookshelf. It's not often that a CEO described as the century's best retires, and then chooses to expound on such a wide range of management topics. Also, aside from the commentary on always-relevant issues like employee performance reviews and quality control, Welch suffuses this book with his pugnacious spirit. The Massachusetts native who fought his way to the top of the world's most valuable company was in many ways the embodiment of "Winning," and this spirit alone will provide readers an enjoyable read. --Peter Han
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. One oft-heard comment about Welch's generally praised (and bestselling) 2001 memoir, Jack: Straight from the Gut, was that the book skimped on useful business advice. The respected but controversial former chief of General Electric pays readers back double here. Written with Welch's wife, a onetime editor of the Harvard Business Review, the book delivers a brilliant career's worth of consistently astute (and often iconoclastic) business wisdom and knowledge from the man Fortune magazine called "the manager of the century." Welch knows what he's talking about, and here offers an admirably concise primer on how to do business that's a paragon of tough common sense. From practices he employed at GE (e.g., the much-debated differentiation, which includes winnowing 10% of the workforce at regular intervals), to the personal qualities that lead to success (to Welch, candor is essential), to advice on job hunting and how to work with a bad boss, to ways to maximize the budget process (divorce it from performance rewards), Welch comments frankly and by myriad example, with a common touch that will draw readers in ("that was hardly the first time I'd gotten my clock cleaned by the press"). He explains upfront that the book arose as an attempt to codify his beliefs, in response to the many questions he's received at numerous public appearances since he retired from GE in 2001; as such the book has a somewhat lumpy feel, like an overstuffed bag of presents. But the writing, full of personality and ideas, is a model of clarity and insight, even on such dense subjects as the quality control program Six Sigma. It's difficult to think of anyone in business who wouldn't benefit from reading this savvy, engaging cubicle-to-boardroom guide to success; and it's likely, given Welch's reputation and the massive ad/promo HarperCollins is putting behind the book, that enough business people will want to read it to push it toward the top of the charts. (Apr. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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However, one insight Welch makes in this book which I thought was hugely illimunating is the notion that mission statements, rather than being wishy-washy, should be tied to concrete, explicitly defined goals--ideally which possess metrics against which success can be measured. Welch has a background in science, and it wouldn't surprise me if the idea arose from that experience.
I'd very highly recommend this book for anyone thinking of taking on some kind of role in management, no matter at what level of business. Even if you don't agree with everything, Welch's frankness and wealth of experience provide some very stimulating material to pore over.
What makes this book unique is the breadth of topics discussed. It really serves as a primer for anyone looking to navigate his way through the corporate world. While it is hard to summarize the many learnings contained within this book, below are some excerpts which I found particularly profound:
-"When you are an individual contributor, you try to have all the answers. That's your job...When you are a leader, your job is to have all the questions."
-On Change " 1- Attach very change initiative to a clear purpose or goal. Change for change's sake is stupid and enervating. 2- Hire and promote only true believers and get-on-with-it types. 3- Ferret out and get rid of resisters, even if their performance is satisfactory. 4- Look at car wrecks."
-" The 4-E (And 1-P) Framework - The first E is positive energy. -The second E is the ability to energize others. - The third E is edge, the courage to make tough yes-or-no decisions. - Which leads us to the fourth E - execute - the ability to get the job done. - If a candidate has the four Es, then you look for that final P - passion.
Given the scope of the book, one can't expect that it covers each of the topics in depth. What it does though, is server as an eye openers on areas/aspects of one's career that were perhaps missed/over-looked.
If you had to read one book this year, I would recommend Winning!
Having been an employee at a F500 company, I found the way he thinks is consistent with upper management at most large corporations. For example, people who are enthusiastic and maybe drink the Kool Aid are the ones who get promoted.
It's also a good motivational book. He doesn't just talk about how the P.H.d's like himself get promoted, but how average Joe's can differentiate themselves.
Often times, like dealing with a bad boss, he tells the truth and bluntly tells you your options.
As with all books that give advice, what works for Jack might not work for you. But if you are looking to get "Corporation CEO 101", you could do worse than "Winning."