Cultural Assessment of General Electric
Learning Team A
Human Relations and Organizational Behavior
March 14, 2005
Cultural Assessment of General Electric
The corporate culture of General Electric (GE) is a composite of its people, leadership, organization, structure, and processes from past to present. This paper will provide an assessment of the corporate culture of GE, and provide an insight into the dynamics, which have made it one of the world’s premier companies. The aspects of General Electric’s culture begin with its leadership, and progress through its management, workforce, policies, and objectives. GE leadership provides corporate direction with a formalized set of values and action verbs, which guide the organization (GE, 2005). In lieu of a corporate mission statement, GE identifies its key strategies and initiatives in its annual Letter to Stakeholders (GE, 2004). The corporate office maintains a distinct presence among its sprawling empire. This empire is composed of a worldwide workforce, which is involved in a myriad of activities. To lead this powerful organization, management is trained and indoctrinated into the GE culture. The myths, and legends, surrounding General Electric, lend to the cultural identity shared by the entire workforce. Training, organization, and structure are established and maintained through several processes, and programs, which contribute to GE’s cultural identity. General Electric’s leadership provides the vision, which establishes the culture of the organization. The overall direction of the corporation is provided by its current Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer (CE0), Jeffrey R. Immelt. One nuance of General Electric is that the company does not have a mission statement. Instead, corporate objectives, goals, and initiatives are outlined, by the Chairman, in the annual Letter to Stakeholders within the Annual Report (GE, 2004). This document provides an assessment of the company’s performance, and identifies its Seven Growth Engines – Transportation, Energy, Healthcare, NBC, Universal, Infrastructure, Commercial Finance and Consumer Finance. In addition, the Chairman provides a formal set of action verbs and words, which comprise the company’s cultural values (GE, 2005). Imagine, Build, Solve, and Lead are the action verbs which define the beliefs of General Electric, and are a “call to action” (GE, 2005) to propel the organization toward its goals. Passionate, Curious, Resourceful, Accountable, Teamwork, Committed, Open, and Energizing are the “words” of the company which represent a renewing of its values (GE, 2005). This value-set enables Jeffrey Immelt, and his leadership team, to provide guidance to management and employees around the globe. Headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, GE operates facilities throughout the world and manages a global workforce. However, the centralized location of its corporate power may be a negative reflection upon its culture. Larson and Kleiner (2004) state that General Electric’s headquarters convey “an image of stability and importance” through a “fortress-like” building, while many of its division locations are in “run down buildings in nondescript locations.” This may project a negative view of the corporate leadership’s perception of the workforce. In addition, this may identify a divide, within the corporate culture, between the divisions and the headquarters (Larson and Keiner 2004). While the company operates in numerous locations around the globe, its culture reflects the diversity and complexity of its workforce. The most important aspect of General Electric lies in its people. It is impossible to look at the GE culture without first identifying the driving force that shaped this ethos. GE’s cultural lineage can be traced to its legendary leadership guru, Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. Welch, who joined General Electric in 1960 after completing his...
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