Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Management God

Dr. Hendrix Seminar on Organizational Design & Change John Acheson

Who is god? John F. Welch, Jr. aka Jack. Why? Because as ex-CEO and leader of General Electric, he turned America’s most respected company into the world’s most revered organization. How? High performance through the relentless implementation of change through visionary leadership. By the numbers during his 20 year tenure, he grew sales by 368% and exploded net earnings from $1.6B to $10B, a 562% increase.1 He did that with fewer employees than he inherited. What man could’ve achieved this type of global performance running a massively complex system of dozens of businesses? A God type leader and personality type that spent most of his time designing an organization by changing management and culture. With his retirement in 2000, the huge questions were: what personality type left, what type made up the 3,000 “A players,”2 and most importantly, who and what type filled God’s shoes to run the “House That Jack Built?”

As Welch approached retirement, his final act as God of GE was to prepare the organization with disciples that could lead when God was gone. He was convinced that only the best leaders that worked as managers would do and converted the human capital at GE into as many A players as possible. Jack characterized A Players as manager personalities types that had the 4E’s: energy, energizing, edge and execution.2 These were the manager types that other companies have taken notice to. Often GE was looked at the perennial management organization, and several A players have been wooed away from GE to lead other companies. But, what personality types were they as Jack’s final initiative distilled personnel? That really depended upon how the 3,000 A Players interacted with God before Jack left GE.

Jack is an ENTP. Why an E? His answers are long and drawn out, he loves to talk and teach. He performs in the limelight under pressure and scrutiny. Why a NT? He earned a PhD and started out as an engineer. His greatest strength is being able to conceptualize complexity into simple initiatives. What about the P? That’s pretty easy, he always leaves his options open. When six-sigma came along he jumped right on the bandwagon, but didn’t do the same thing with the internet. After his wife got him on-line and he collected new data, his P type personality type changed its mind and nudged a 300,000 strong organization to redesign itself once again.

As Jack left GE and focused his final days on putting together a succession plan through A players, what personality types survived? Clearly, interacting with God an ENTP was the determining factor that filtered the A players. Was it possible for all of his managers to also be ENTP’s? No, I argue that it was not, and feel strongly that Jack’s successor could not have been an E. Assuming that Jacks’ GE was built on the NT type, Jeffrey Immelt, CEO is an INTP or INTJ. And since his attitude toward change is not the same as Jack’s, “I know GE will have to change eventually, but there’s no reason to add an initiative now,”3 he’s gotta be a J. So if God’s successor is not the same type as God, clearly the organization has changed already, and the 3,000 NTs below Jeff will have to deal with a J planner, not a creative P. This goes against Jack’s most successful initiatives that moved culture into creating an entrepreneurial fast-moving place at GE. It sounds like God’s successor may slow things down, and will not be able to live up to the NTP that handed off the most successful conglomerate the world has known.

Analyzing God has confirmed that personality type and chemistry are everything in organizational design and change. But Jack taught me more! He showed by his retirement, that Gods are rarely surrounded by other Gods. In other words, a great ENTP leader probably has INT’s running around implementing and when it comes time to replace God with another ENTP, there’s a problem. Since E’s butt heads and don’t want to share the spotlight, they’re surrounded by I’s like Immelt, who implemented complexity like six-sigma. The danger is that he will fold under pressure. The future of GE cannot burn as bright as it did under God’s rule!


1 GE Annual Reports. GE’s two-decade transformation: jack welch’s leadership. Datastream.

2 Hendrix, G. GE’s two-decade transformation: jack welch’s leadership. San Francisco State University, p.69.

3 Deutsch, C. His successor faces skeptics and a market less in awe. New York Times, September 7, 2001

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Portland, OR, United States
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