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Corporate Strategy Analysis: General Electric Co. (1981–present)

Stanislav Bucifal Australian National University July 2009

Corporate Strategy Analysis: General Electric Co. (1981–present)

Stanislav Bucifal

Introduction
The General Electric Company (GE) is widely regarded as one of the world’s most successful corporations of the 20th century. This paper aims to critically analyse the corporate strategy of GE during the period from 1981 to present under the leadership of two very different but equally influential CEOs—Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt. The essay is organised in four sections. The first section describes GE’s corporate strategy from 1981 to 2001 with Jack Welch as CEO, followed immediately by a critical analysis of Welch’s strategic approach in the second section. The third section then describes GE’s corporate strategy from 2001 to present with Jeff Immelt as CEO, followed again by a critical analysis of Immelt’s strategic approach in section four.

1. The Jack Welch period (1981–2001)
When Jack Welch took up his post as GE’s CEO in 1981 he embarked on a radical transformation of GE’s strategy, ushering in a new era of performance management and internal efficiency. Welch’s profit guidance aimed for earnings growth of 1.5 times to double of the GDP growth rate and his management philosophy found its articulation in GE’s slogan—Speed, Simplicity, Self-Confidence (GE 1995). These values would reflect not only in the organisation’s systems and processes but also in GE’s products and services through their simple and highly functional designs. Welch’s corporate strategy was all about performance and efficiency. Throughout his 20 years as CEO, he relentlessly drove his subordinates to the limits of their abilities, encouraging employees at all levels to embrace ambitious targets and continuously improve their performance. Welch was renowned for his use of constructive conflict as a means of eliciting commitments from line managers and making



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