Excerpt of Winning by Jack Welch, Suzy Welch
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Getting more participation really makes a difference, giving you more
insights and more ideas, and at the end of the process, most importantly, much
more extensive buy-in.
The actual process of creating values, incidentally, has to be iterative. The
executive team may come up with a first version, but it should be just that, a
first version. Such a document should go out to be poked and probed by people
all over an organization, over and over again. And the executive team has to go
out of their way to be sure theyve created an atmosphere where people feel it
is their obligation to contribute.
Now, if youre in a company where speaking up gets you whacked, this method
of developing values just isnt going
to work. I understand that, and as long as you stay, youre going to have to
live with that generic plaque in the front hall.
But if youre at a company that does welcome debateand many doshame on you
if you dont contribute to the process. If you want values and behaviors that
you understand and can live with yourself, you have to make the case for them.
Its in the Nitty-Gritty Details
When I first became CEO, I was certainly
guilty of endorsing vague, too cryptic values. For instance, in 1981, I wrote in
the annual report that GE leaders face reality and live excellence and feel
ownership. These platitudes sure sounded good, but they had a long way to go
toward describing real behaviors.
By 1991, we had made a lot of progress. Over the course of the previous three
years, more than five thousand employees spent some portion of their time
participating in the development of our values. The result was much more
concrete. We printed them on laminated wallet cards. The text included
imperatives such as Act in a boundaryless fashionalways search for and apply
the best ideas regardless of their source and Be intolerant of bureaucracy
and See change for the growth opportunity it brings.
Of course, some of these behaviors required further explanation and
interpretation. And we did that all the time, at meetings, during appraisals,
and at the watercooler.
Since leaving GE, Ive realized how much further still we might have been
able to push the discussion about values and behaviors. In 2004, I watched Jamie
Dimon and Bill Harrison work together to develop values and behaviors for the
new company created by the merger of Bank One and JP Morgan Chase. The document
they used to open the dialogue came from Bank One, and it listed values and
their corresponding behaviors with a level of detail I had never seen before.
Take the value We treat customers the way we would want to be treated.
Thats pretty tangible, but Bank One had literally identified the ten or twelve
behaviors that made that value come to life. Here are some of them:
- Never let profit center conflicts get in the way of doing what is right for
- Give customers a good, fair deal. Great customer relationships take time. Do
not try to maximize short-term profits at the expense of building those enduring
- Always look for ways to make it easier to do business with us.
- Communicate daily with your customers. If they are talking to you, they cant
be talking to a competitor.
- Dont forget to say thank you.
- Another value Bank One had was: We strive to be the low-cost provider
through efficient and great operations.
Some of the prescribed behaviors included:
- Leaner is better.
- Eliminate bureaucracy.
- Cut waste relentlessly.
- Operations should be fast and simple.
- Value each others time.
- Invest in infrastructure.
- We should know our business best. We dont need consultants to tell us what
If this level of detail feels overwhelming and even doctrinaire to you, I can
sympathize. When I first saw Jamies single-spaced, five-page
values-and-behaviors document, I nearly fell over. But as I read it, I saw its
The foregoing is excerpted from Winning by Jack Welch and Suzy Welch. All
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