During the early part of June, I had the privilege of spending a day at General Electric’s Crotonville Jack Welch Learning Institute. This facility specializes in development of leadership skills in junior to senior executives.
For over 100 years, General Electric (GE) has been recognized as one of the world’s leading diversified businesses. Growth had traditionally stemmed from acquisitions, whereas the focus is now on organic growth, growth from within. Throughout its history, GE has promoted its top leaders from its own ranks. The company’s executive development practices were rooted in the cultural values put in place by the successor to the original founder.
What was so special about this visit for me was to see how GE is changing the corporate DNA of its leaders to achieve its growth goals. GE started out by benchmarking a series of companies that had grown organically for a decade at three times the GDP. They looked closely at the people and the traits that characterized them – external focus, imagination, creativity, decisiveness, inclusiveness, and, finally, domain expertise. They then developed a matrix tool that lists the five growth traits and their components and incorporated it as part of the annual HR review. This is guiding the development plans of the top 5,000 people in the organization, as well as being omnipresent in leadership sessions that are deployed.
The training facilities are state of the art; executives participating in training sessions, junior or senior, are encouraged to mingle during meals and after hours; executives frequently participate in training sessions to transfer their knowledge (Jack Welch would participate, on average, two times a month as did his successor Jeff Immelt).
GE is a company that has returns in excess of 20 per cent in the past 20 years. It has an employee base of some 316,000 employees. What struck me was its commitment to changing its leadership DNA to meet the challenges of the future. For many years, GE has leveraged its human capital through professional development, networking, and knowledge sharing to achieve its remarkable results. Words sound familiar? They should, this is also what CIM is all about.
François Pelletier, CIM President