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Welch : An American icon

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janet lowe

SKU: 04 Category: Tag:

When business writer Lowe (Damn Right!, etc.) approached GE Chairman Jack Welch about a book (Jack Welch Speaks, her first book on him), “[h]e said he did not see any purpose in. . . yet another book.” Lowe’s respectable, ultimately redundant book portrays Welch as a captain of industry who commands the kind of attention that top executives crave and almost never get. The near-mythical story of GE’s wrenching turnaround earns Welch abundant positive and negative buzz. Unlike many of Welch’s contemporaries, he has stayed with the same company for the long run (since 1960), becoming chairman in 1981 and immediately restructuring the massive conglomerate, earning the moniker “Neutron Jack” because of his huge layoffs along the way. Through a combination of radical structural changes, a near-fanatical devotion to the Six Sigma management system and an acquisition blitzkrieg, GE leapt into the 21st century, taking no prisoners. Critics noted that under his stewardship, deep workforce reductions accompanied Welch’s own ballooning salary and a tendency to treat workers and their hometowns as dispensable (Welch has said, “Ideally, you’d have every plant you own on a barge, to move with currencies and changes in the economy”). Lowe promises a balanced look at Welch that pulls no punches; for the most part, she delivers. But the book’s distracting, episodic style (a lot of the material was left over from the first book) makes it seem little more than an attempt to capitalize on curiousity about Welch prior to the publication of his much-touted upcoming book. Several abundant appendices are informative but do little to explain Welch’s icon status.