Organizational Behavior: A look at General Electric
In the history of corporations few companies have demonstrated the staying power and tenacity as General Electric (GE.). Of the companies that originally appeared when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was rolled out in 1896 only GE is still doing business today. (General Electric, 2007) GE’s 125 year run has not been spotless. GE, like any long lasting organization, has had many ups and downs. GE’s past has at times been glorious and at other times has been dark and manipulative. “GE traces its beginnings to Thomas A. Edison, who established Edison Electric Light Company in 1878. In 1892, a merger of Edison General Electric Company and Thomson-Huston Electric Company created General Electric Company.” (General Electric, 2007) Since the invention of the light bulb, GE has been a power house of industry; continually pushing the world of technology forward. Innovation has been one of the driving forces behind GE’s incredible success. As companies and organizations go, GE has been not only on the cutting edge of innovation, but has in many cases defined the cutting edge. In the past 20 years GE has not only used innovation in terms of research and development of products, GE has also used innovation to recreate the entire corporate climate. In terms of organizational behavior, GE has established themselves as a global model innovating themselves from a company mired in bureaucracy to a dynamic company that is fast on its feet. General Electric has set the stage for how a successful company can use organizational culture, team dynamics, and communication to lead a behavioral revolution. Organizational Culture
In the minds of many individuals, big companies equal big bureaucracies. Huge conglomerates often have the reputation of being slow cumbersome machines that crank out boring and drab products. Big companies also tend to have a reputation for being out of touch with both customers and employees. The corporate culture at GE could not be farther from that traditional stereo type. As part of GE’s efforts to innovate corporate culture, GE has learned to embrace its size. GE has learned that size can work to their advantage. As part of GE’s corporate culture, GE has taken it upon itself to publish an annual Citizenship Report. In essence, the report reflects the goals that GE has placed for itself to not only continue to grow as a company, but to do so while taking care of the people who work for them, the countries where they do business, and the customers they wish to supply. GE is working hard to create a company culture that is open, ethical and caring. This commitment is reflected by the title of the 2006 GE Citizenship report, “Solving BIG needs.” (2006) In an open letter, penned by Jeffery R. Immelt, Chairman of the Board and CEO of GE, included in the GE 2006 Citizenship Report, Mr. Immelt states: Making an impact on big problems takes two qualities. We must be a great company [,] with the capability, reach and resources to make a difference. But we must also be a good company [,] because true impact means defining success in ways that go well beyond the bottom line. (2006) Jeffery Immelt continues by writing, “We believe a company must perform with integrity in its interactions with customers, employees, regulators and communities. A good company leads by example, not words.”(2006) The basic cultural message heard throughout GE is simple: Lead by openness, innovation and integrity. Team Dynamics
When Jack Welch took the helm as CEO of GE in the early 1980s the company was bloated, slow and out-of-touch with employees and customers. The daunting task faced by Jack Welch and senior leadership was to bring GE back to profitability and reinvigorate the company’s brand image. The effects of the restructuring were felt by the late 1980s by corporate downsizing. As claimed in a report published in Leader to Leader, the workforce had been cut by 25% and that, “Employees...
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