Was GE correct in replacing its CEO?

A nagging thought kept running through my mind when I read #GeneralElectric had replaced Mr. John Flannery as Chief Executive Officer after just 14 months on the job: Was he given enough time to fix this huge severely distressed $120 billion company?

My answer is no…

It would take at least 3 years to fix a company with the complexity and size of General Electric. It is extremely difficult to even save a smaller company with sales under $300 million in only one year, based on my own experience completing a number of turnarounds as CEO. This type of challenge takes time.

In my experience, although the chief executive officer I replaced had failed, the Board of Directors were at times also at fault and contributed to the failure. In more than one turnaround, the Board was more at fault than the chief executive officer.

It is not difficult to determine that a company is failing but surprisingly, in my experience, some Boards did not recognize that management failed and that the company was in trouble until the decline was at a desperate crisis level.

One has to wonder….

Why wasn’t General Electric’s decline identified some years earlier when it would have been easier to fix the problems? Siemens, one of General Electric’s competitors, realized it was headed for trouble in 2003 and began a restructuring. Now Siemens is reportedly successful.

News reports suggest GE’s entire Board of Directors will be replaced by 2019. There are currently six new Board members. But 5 of the 11 current Board members recently involved with removing Flannery were also on the Board during the company’s decline. Did these five Board members participate in the decision to replace Flannery? If yes, how can anyone be certain the latest move was sound? Or did this Board make another poorly considered decision that got General Electric in trouble in the first place?

Personally I find General Electric’s demise particularly sad, since I started my career at GE. I would have thought this decline would have been virtually impossible after the excellent job Mr. Jack Welch completed in building GE from its troubled condition when he took over.


Bloomberg: GE Ousts Flannery After Slump, Names Lawrence Culp CEO

Washington Post: Why GE is making a dramatic overhaul to its board of directors

CNBC: GE was once America’s most valuable company. Today it is fighting junk-bond status.

Wall Street Journal: GE Powered the American Century—Then It Burned Out

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Chief Executive Officer

Executive Chairman

Turnarounds & Operational Restructurings

Adviser to creditors, board of directors or owners

Pre-acquisition & troubled company due diligence evaluations

Develop strategic and operating plans - including Court required plans of reorganization

Acquisition advice and negotiations

Serve as Member Board of Directors

Testify in Federal and State Court

Reason I wrote my book “Learn to Whisper”

Click on this link for a more complete description of “Learn to Whisper”

The reason I wrote “Learn to Whisper”:

My conclusion after operating as a Turnaround Chief Executive Officer for more than twenty-five years is that the majority of this country’s top management is far from first-rate. In fact top management, particularly at the chief executive officer level, is at best average with a large number that can be rated mediocre. This lack of management competence has seen this country’s market leaders lose sizeable market share to foreign manufacturers able to export better quality and lower cost products to the USA. It has seen manufacturing and service operations unnecessarily moved to foreign countries. All of which has negatively affected the economy, severely damaged former blue-chip corporations and seen quality jobs lost.

It is quite common to discover that companies struggling with this inability to compete with foreign companies have been simply mismanaged. The once successful business deteriorated because of an incompetent chief executive officer and weak senior management

Why doesn’t this nation have first-rate management? Inadequate training. Chief executive officers and vice presidents learn “on the job”. A number get promoted based on personality, political connections and drive – not merit. They are not carefully screened for the potential to become successful at managing. For some all that is needed is a well-written resume, the right interviewing style and the inability of a new employer to accurately assess skills, performance and potential.

Compare this to the process doctors go through. From medical school to internship to residency to a senior role after years of education, experience and continuous training their progress and capabilities are constantly monitored even after they become senior in the profession. Generals and Admirals go through a similar protocol. They must prove themselves in low-level assignments before they are judged qualified for senior positions. Unqualified applicants in both professions are culled out. What can be done to improve management competence? Education, on-the-job training and job performance monitoring. My book will educate people on the subject of managing. Its 101 management lessons are separated into the 17 subjects managers need to know.