Read It Anyway!

I really dislike the recently released Jacked Up: The Inside Story of How Jack Welch Talked GE into Becoming the World's Greatest Company. I put it down several times. I threw it down several times. Written by Welch's long-time speech writer, Bill Lane, it is a self-serving picture of an organization run by a misogynist egomaniac—you'd have to be nuts or a former male Navy Seal to want to have worked there. Welch comes across as a brutal, soulless, foul-mouthed boss who revels in putting people down in the most demeaning ways.

So why read it, you ask? Because despite the wretched culture Lane depicts, it also tells a remarkable story about one guy wrestling a ten-thousand ton rabid gorilla to the ground. The fact is that, per the hopeless message of the Post immediately above, Welch brought GE back from the dead, removed an astonishing number of barnacles from its hapless hull, circa 1980, and left behind an execution machine, deep in leadership talent, the likes of which is rare beyond measure. (Perhaps he did too well. GE is inherently unmanageable, and probably should have been broken up long ago. Welch kept it together and functioning in a way that I'd judge cannot be sustained—by Jeff Immelt or anyone else. But that's another story for another day.)

On top of all the problems with the book, it's a fact, I'd guess, that nary a single reader of this Post runs a quarter-million person outfit. Still, there is in the end, I decided, a bunch of stuff that we can learn from as we try to deal with Norberto Odebrecht's, "Everything in existence tends to deteriorate." (See above.) Though I hate the idea of putting the royalties into Bill Lane's pocket, I suggest you take a look at the book. You may pick up a tip or two or three from the good parts—and the bad parts are so bad that they have, or had for me, a perverse attraction.

(Fear not, Mr Lane will definitely not, under any circumstances, be a "Cool Friend.")