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Organizations, large or small, are in continual need of strategic transformation. Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will makes a major contribution to this management practice.  This stems from Noel Tichy’s involvement in General Electric at all levels through much of Jack Welch’s revolution.

Strategic Transformation

This book is really three books in one

It is first a vibrant portrait of a unique leader.  Jack Welch, in action, defines and produces permanent change perceived as unneeded by most in his organization. Secondly, it details a process utilized by GE to transform itself from being a successful, old-line company in 1980 having:

  • slow growth, primarily domestic, markets,
  • bureaucratic organizational structure,
  • scientific management style;

to the highly successful, revolutionized company of today having:

  • moderate to high growth, global markets in which GE is #1 or #2,
  • flat organizational structure striving toward “boundarylessness,”
  • empowering management style stressing shared corporate values.

Thirdly, it contains a “Handbook for Revolutionaries,” containing a do-able process complete with templates. These templates can be used by other companies to determine whether they should embark on a strategic transformation.

This book also masterfully presents Jack Welch’s “Big Ideas”

The high-level strategies at the core of the GE revolution are:

  • Being #1 or #2 in a global industry,
  • Unleashing and harnessing employees’ emotional energy as the major source of competitive advantage,

    Review by Tom Ambler

  • Integrated Diversity to link diverse business units into a “Business Engine,”
  • Boundarylessness,
  • Simultaneous quantum and incremental change to achieve productivity gains,
  • “Work-out” to drive “Shared Values” down through the organization,

It is no surprise that these “Big Ideas” reflect the six rules Jack Welch lives by:

  • Control your destiny or someone else will.
  • Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it were.
  • Be candid with everyone.
  • Don’t manage, lead.
  • Change before you have to.
  • If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete

This book presents the Technical, Political and Cultural dimensions necessary for strategic transformation

Its unique and most valuable contribution, however, is its analysis of how GE transformed its culture.  Such cultural change will likely be the primary strategic issue in the future of most companies.  In the words of the authors,

“GE’s toughness and its emphasis on shared values are not contradictory. Both spring from the same source: The insistence that the company control its own destiny. They are different manifestations of a single idea, that the competitive realities of the late twentieth century and beyond require a new relationship between employer and employee. In the years ahead, even a well-tuned business engine won’t be enough. The winning corporations will be those that can create human engines, powered by turned-on, committed employees. Companies with old-fashioned, control-based organizations will disappear in the dust.”

For more information or to order your copy of Control Your Destiny from Amazon.com, click on the title.

Note: This article was orginally published in Compass Points in January 1999.

© Copyright 2018 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution.

Tom Ambler is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at ambler@cssp.com

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