Jack Welch: His final transformation isn't pretty
Thursday, Apr. 17, 2008 at 1:28pm
This is just a note of condolence to Jeff Immelt. I have no comment or thought on the business difficulties being faced by General Electric right now, beyond to say that it's a tough market, that everybody is in it, that nobody is feeling very good right now, and that I wish them long life and good future health as a shareholder.
Could they be doing something better? Maybe so and maybe not. There are certainly any number of brilliant, sagacious, perspicacious and audacious financial journalists sitting on their comfy fannies right now, pounding away on the poor multinational conglomerate, acute observers of the scene who are willing to offer their gaseous emissions on that subject, critics in the shadow of whose acumen I tremble. So I'm going to let that be.
What I can tell you is how much tougher it makes it, when a company is in difficult circumstances, for a high-profile showboat former CEO to wade in and add to their troubles. You all know the story so far. GE (GE) fails to deliver its promised numbers, shocks the street, which is already in a state of mouth-breathing frenzy right now, shakes the foundations of global capitalism to the rafters, becomes the poster child for what-is-to-become-of-us thinking. That's bad.
I can assure you - and I don't know any of those guys personally over there - that nobody at that corporation was walking along whistling a happy tune as their particular crisis reared up and whacked them upside their organizational head.
Just as the most acute part of the media feeding frenzy was ebbing and the company was starting to get back down its knitting - here comes Jack Welch, the emblem of executive excellence and rigor for decades, a fine leader of that very company for a long, long time, and one of the most visible profiles in American business.
He jumps on the wounded animal's back and starts hitting it over the head with his own very personal whammy stick. He is sure, he tells a somber gloom-meister on the Company's proprietary cable network, that such a lapse in credibility and performance will never happen again... and that he would be prepared to take out a gun and shoot his hand-picked successor if it did. Waves of drool explode from the financial press and the news cycle starts again.
Ugh. I can tell you how that feels from the inside. It feels lousy. It feels like a guy you trusted and looked up to just put the last knife in to Caesar's body. It feels like: Thanks, Brutus.
Was Jack helping GE by doing this? Is there any objective, rational reason that such statement be made as the company is trying to fight its way out of a problem that we are ALL suffering from at this point?
In a word, NO. Jack gets back into the headlines. Jack reminds us all of what a great CEO he was. Jack distances himself from the Company whose hardships he has no desire to be associated with. And in so doing, I think, he makes the final morph from business person to pundit.
Not a winning transformation this time around, is it.