A Summary and Review of Winning by Jack Welch with Suzy Welch: A Guide for Thinking Executives – and Those Who Want to be One

This summary and review of the book, Winning, was prepared by Jason A. Sibley while a Management major in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Cover via Amazon

Executive Summary

“Winning” by Jack and Suzy Welch is an excellent book to enhance the knowledge of all managers. This book is very understandable and informative on how to ultimately win in business. Jack Welch believes business is a game and the ultimate goal is to become the winner. “Winning” provides many of Jack Welch’s experiences throughout his career and his thoughts about each one. The book is broken down into four sections titled; Underneath It All, Your Company, Your Career, and Tying Up Loose Ends.

The first section, Underneath It All, is described as a set of Jack Welch’s principles that are most important in business. The principles are Mission and Values, Candor, Differentiation, and Voice and Dignity. Jack believes managers must identify the mission and values of the business and the direction it needs to go. Differentiation is important because its focus is on identifying the best and worst employees in the organization and what it takes to motivate them. Candor and Voice and Dignity both focus on the importance of opinions and openness in the organization. Jack feels that honesty in the workplace allows everyone to know where they stand in the organization. Candor and Voice and Dignity allow all employees to be open to ideas and processes to generate new and improved ideas.

The second section, Your Company, is about the organization itself and how it operates. The topics include Leadership, Hiring, People Management, Parting Ways, Change, and Crises management. Jack Welch describes how to become better leaders by learning from your mistakes. He also describes how to hire individuals that are passionate and goal driven, and he explains how to manage people in a way that makes them want to work such as by motivating them. The latter half of the section explains change and how to recover after a crisis.

The third section, Your Career, describes how you can grow and develop professionally. In this section Jack Welch includes topics on finding The Right Job, Getting Promoted, Hard Spots, and Work Life Balance. Everyone wants to find the right job that they enjoy and love doing on a daily basis, but it may take several different jobs to identify what you enjoy doing as well as identifying your strengths. Jack Welch also mentions how to get promoted by expanding your job horizon and achieving your goals as well as dealing with difficult bosses. One of the most important concepts today is work-life balance. In this chapter, Jack Welch states that each person must perform well to earn the work-life balance they desire.

The final section, Tying Up Loose Ends, answers many questions that people have asked Jack Welch during and after his career. The questions ask about personal thoughts while others are asking about his opinion on certain business topics. Some questions are more difficult to answer than others but Jack tries to explain them as best as he can.
“Winning” is an excellent book that really helps all managers think in a different way. It gives a new insight on how to handle different situations and how to become a better manager. Jack Welch does an outstanding job as he gives examples and provides his thoughts on how businesses should operate to win. He also admits to making mistakes during his career so that others can learn and benefit from them. All managers should read this book to become more knowledgeable of business concepts and ideas that could ultimately help them win.

The Ten Things Managers Need to Know from Winning

1. All organizations need to have a clear mission and a set of values that are enforced. The mission will guide the business in the direction it wants to go while its values act as guidelines as to how the mission should be carried out. It is important that businesses follow the mission and enforce values to help them stay on the path to success.

2. Candor should be encouraged in all types of businesses and organizations. Candor allows individuals in the organization to speak freely and express their ideas. Having candor in the organization generates new ideas which could lead to more improved and better processes as well as more informative performance evaluations.

3. Jack Welch describes differentiation in terms of hardware and software. Software is described as the employees in an organization. It is important to evaluate each employee according to their performance. This will help managers identify the top, middle, and bottom performers. Each group of performers require different managing tactics to motivate and make them more productive.

4. Change is an important part of doing business and should only be implemented when there is a clear purpose for change. Many individuals resist change, so it is imperative to identify the individuals who accept change because it will make the transaction much easier. It is also important to eliminate resisters and learn from mistakes made by other organizations.  

5. When a crises strikes it can be devastating to a businesses. In the event of a crisis it is important to be honest to maintain the trust of your customers and to prevent rumors and wrong assumptions. It is also important to view the situation in the most negative way so you will be prepared if the situation worsens.

6. According to Jack Welch, “Strategy is a living, breathing, totally dynamic game. It’s fun – and fast. And it’s alive.” To have a successful strategy a business must identify a competitive advantage to stand out from its competition. Observe competitors strategies and continuously improve your competitive advantage to stay ahead of rivals.

7. Six Sigma is a program that focuses on improving quality while lowering operating costs. At the same time, it increases customer satisfaction and is implemented for continuous improvement in all aspects of the business.

8. To find the right job you must first identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as your likes and dislikes. To recognize these factors, you must learn from your current and past job experiences. The process of finding the right job could take years and even cause changes in career paths. According to Jack Welch, “Once you find the right job, you will never really work again.”

9. The opportunity for promotion arises to individuals who prove achievement and exhibit positive attitudes. Individuals are more likely to receive a promotion when they consistently accomplish goals and expand their job horizon.

10. Work-Life balance is growing among workers today and varies from person to person. Some individuals may enjoy working more often, while other people with families may like to spend more time at home. To be able to have a work-life balance that you enjoy, you must earn it by performing well. Having a work-life balance that you enjoy can make you have a higher job satisfaction and lead to even higher performance.

Full Summary of Winning

Introduction

Jack Welch first started the book “Winning” after he retired as CEO from GE. He decided to start writing this book because thousands of people who had a passion for business began asking him all sorts of various questions about business. Jack said, “All the questions boiled down to this: What does it take to win?”

The answer to this question cannot obviously be answered in one chapter, so the entire book gives details and describes what it really takes to win. Jack believes that winning is great because he stated, “When companies win, people thrive and grow.” By winning, more opportunities arise and people become happier. This is where the book begins, because people from all over the world in all types of positions are looking for the answers to help them win and succeed in their own careers.

Mission and Values

In this chapter Jack Welch describes how all companies have to have an effective mission and specific values in order to win. Businesses have to have a sense of direction to lead them to success. Companies also have to have values that are practiced by all of the employees on a regular basis.

The mission statement needs to answer how the company will win in the business they are in and most importantly how they will become profitable. The mission also needs to be specific where companies can identify their strengths and weaknesses and be clear to which direction they need to go. The mission should always be created by top executives of the company.
Values are described as the behaviors in which people in the organization are expected to demonstrate. Executives should create the values for the organization but also be open to others’ thoughts and ideas. They should be specific guidelines for individuals to follow and enforced. Each and every employee needs to demonstrate the company’s values including the executives. Failure to have a specific mission and values could cause a business to fail such as Enron and Author Anderson did.

The Biggest Dirty Little Secret In Business

According to Jack Welch, “The biggest dirty little secret in business is the lack of candor.” In this chapter, Jack describes how important candor is and how it should be encouraged in all businesses. Many people are hesitant to use candor in organizations because they feel it causes conflict, but Jack thinks that having people open up and express their thoughts and ideas is good especially in employee evaluations. Jack feels that each person in the organization needs to know how well they are doing and which areas they need to improve in.

Jack Welch also created what he calls the Candor Effect. The Candor Effect lists three ways companies can use candor to win. First, candor causes people to open up and express their ideas on different things. This creates discussions where good ideas have potential to become better. Second, new ideas can be discussed, improved, or voided much faster when organizations encourage candor. Third, candor eliminates unnecessary expenses.  

Differentiation

Differentiation is made up of two parts which include hardware and software. Hardware consists of the different businesses or product lines operated by large and small corporations, and software mainly deals with people. It is important to identify which businesses you want to invest money into so that the company isn’t losing money by investing into failing businesses. The example Jack Welsh gave was how GE management kept the line of air conditioning because GE was known to have a full appliance line. This line of products was not as profitable as it needed to be. In the end, GE made higher profits by getting rid of the air conditioning line.

Jack Welch talks about differentiation by identify software as the company’s employees. Jack said, “Managers need to identify their employees into categories according to their performance such as top 20, middle 70, and bottom 10.” By identifying each category, managers will be able to distinguish between top and bottom performers and be able to manage them in different ways. Each category needs to be managed differently to ensure that they are productive and happy.
Many people disagree with differentiation because they feel that they are putting certain individuals in the spot light. Few individuals may feel good about their performance while others may not. Differentiation is important so that employees understand their positions, and it could motivate them to work harder to become part of a higher category.

Voice and Dignity

Voice and Dignity throughout the workplace is important and relates to candor. Jack feels that employees of all backgrounds should be able to speak their opinions on different issues regardless of where you are located. Although, many individuals feel that if they spoke their opinions in the workplace they would be reprimanded in some way. Jack Welch feels that by having employees express their thoughts and feelings it could benefit the organization. New ideas could make a workplace even better. While CEO at GE, Jack Welch came up with a program called “Work-Out” where employees could speak ideas freely. The program continued on with the company and GE’s productivity increased greatly.

Leadership

Being a leader can be challenging no matter how many employees you have. Jack Welch tells how each leader should create a list of rules to follow to become a better leader. The rules will help you stay focused and provide guidelines on how to perform well in the leadership role. In this chapter Jack Welch describes eight guidelines he created to help him become a better leader during his career.

Hiring

Hiring is a difficult process when trying to find the right people for the job. According to Jack Welch, you want to make sure the person you are looking to hire is mature, has integrity, and has experience in that type of work and environment. Jack also created the 4-E and 1-P framework when he was hiring during his career. The four E’s are energy, energize, edge, and execute. The 1-P stands for passion. This means that the candidate you chose should demonstrate positive energy, energize and motivate people, and be able to make difficult decisions as well as complete tasks and accomplish goals on time. If the candidate possesses all four E’s, Jack says leaders should look to make sure the candidate is passionate and truly cares about his employees and his job. At the end of the chapter Jack answers questions that he has been asked during his career about the hiring process.

People Management

One of the most important roles of leadership is being able to manage and motivate people. It is the leader’s responsibility to manage all employees in a way where they are most productive. During this chapter, Jack Welch describes how leaders and employees should work together by following six practices. The first practice is to make Human Resources a priority by making them one of the most important departments in the company. The second practice is to use an evaluation system where employees understand how well they have performed and how they may be able to improve. The third practice is to motivate people where they become more productive, provide training, and recognize employees when they perform well. The last of the practices include dealing with unions; treat the middle seventy percent of employees as most important, and creating a flat organizational chart.    

Parting Ways

One of the most dreaded tasks of being a leader is the process of letting employees go. There are three different reasons to “fire” or let employees go. The first is to fire because of integrity violations. This is when an employee acts unethically. Managers should fire these individuals fast so others do not get the wrong impression. Second is to layoff because of economical reasons which is possibly the most difficult. Jack Welch states that by being open about how the business is doing could possibly make the situation better. If employees know the company isn’t doing too well, they will not be surprised when they are asked to leave. The final reason to fire an employee is because of poor performance. Evaluations should be set into place where each employee knows where they stand. If employees know they are not doing well, being let go should be foreseen.

Change

Implementing change can be incredibly difficult especially when employees are resistant to change. In this chapter Jack Welch talks about change and how change should be implemented. First, there should always be a clear reason for change. Make sure change is appropriate and the company isn’t changing just for the sake of change. Second, make sure you hire and promote individuals who accept change and want to work. Next, let go individuals who dislike and try to stop the change. Lastly, seek for other opportunities that may arise from other business failures.

Crisis Management

Any businesses can experience a crisis, and they often happen unexpectedly. Crises are never good for businesses and can hurt an organization if it is not handled well. In this chapter Jack Welch describes five assumptions to follow when dealing with a crisis. First is to assume the situation is worse than it really is. Second is to be honest with everyone and expose information before opinions and assumptions are made. Third is view the crisis in the worst possible way. Fourth, crisis always leads to change. Finally, the fifth assumption is to believe that your organization will survive, recover, and learn from the crisis. Using these five assumptions will help the organization deal and recover from the crises in the best possible way.

Strategy

To have a successful strategy, it is imperative to have a competitive advantage over your rivals. It will result in higher profits and lower costs by using resources more efficiently. Jack Welch describes how to come up with a successful strategy by coming up with a “aha” for your company. Once you find the “aha” that sets you apart from your competitors, implement the “aha” using the right people and continuously search for improvement. Jack Welch also describes how GE created a behavior called “boundarylessness,” which welcomed new ideas and opinions that allowed GE to continue to improve its strategy.

Budgeting

Jack Welch states that most companies budget by setting low target goals that are easily achieved. This allows the corporation to look good because they have accomplished their goals and are able to give bonuses. Jack Welch describes this method of budgeting as the Negotiated Settlement. Another approach is the Phony Smiles. The Phony smiles type of budgeting is when top management leads individuals to believe their budgeting ideas are great by giving them a smile and telling them how good of a job they have done. In reality, top management already has a budgeting plan and disapproves the new proposal. Jack Welch believes that companies should create budgeting plans with higher goals to boost performance and compare against rivals. By targeting higher goals and possibly missing them, the company may still perform better than it would by achieving smaller goals.

Organic Growth

Developing a new venture can be quite risky, but could also be very profitable. To make the venture a “winning” venture, Jack Welch created three guidelines to follow. The first is to invest money into the venture and put the right people in charge. The second guideline is to consistently speak about the venture to others. This will get the word out about the venture and make it more known. Finally, the last guideline is to give the venture freedom to operate with little intervention. After following these three guidelines, the new venture will hopefully be on its way to become a “winning” venture.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Companies merge together or acquire other businesses so that they can grow and become more profitable similar to ventures. When companies acquire others or merge together many factors must be set into place. In this chapter Jack Welch talks about seven pitfalls that could cause businesses to fail when acquiring or merging with other businesses.

The first pitfall is to assume that two mergers are equal. Mergers should not be equal because then there wouldn’t be any reason to merge together. There is nothing to gain or lose. The second pitfall is failing to see cultural fit between the two companies. This will cause conflict because employees will be focusing on different values and will not be targeting the same goals. The third pitfall is when the acquired company makes all the decisions as if it were never acquired. This will definitely cause conflict because each company will be using different management strategies instead of the acquirers. The fourth pitfall is merging the companies slowly. According to Jack Welch, “The objective made clear to everyone should be full integration within ninety days of the deal’s close.” The fifth pitfall is eliminating all management of the business that is acquired. The acquired business may have managers that are better suited for the job rather than the acquirer’s managers. Place managers where they fit best. The sixth pitfall is spending too much to purchase the company. It may not be worthwhile to purchase a business that will never be paid off. The final pitfall is to keep individuals that accept the change and eliminate the ones who resist. This will allow the business to continue to operate smoothly and successfully.

Six Sigma

According to Jack Welch, “Six Sigma is a quality program that, when all said and done, improves your customer’s experience, lowers your costs, and builds better leaders.” Six Sigma is an ongoing program throughout many businesses today to become more efficient and to continuously improve processes in all parts of the business. Six Sigma also teaches how to create better leaders to help lead the business in the direction it wants to go.

The Right Job

Finding the right job takes time as each individual learns their strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes through previous work experiences. In this chapter, Jack Welch describes how people must enjoy what they are doing and take pride in their work. Each individual is different and often likes to perform tasks that relates to their strengths. When finding the right job you must identify what you want and what you may be willing to sacrifice. Jack Welch stated, “Choose something you like to do, make sure it’s with people you like, and then give it your all. If you do that, you’ll never really work another day in your life.”

Getting Promoted

Getting promoted can be exciting, especially when managers wanting to advance in a company strive to become better. In this chapter Jack Welch describes how there are no shortcuts to a promotion. Each individual must earn a promotion by expanding their job horizons and making their boss look better. You must also have a positive attitude and achieve your goals. By consistently achieving goals and performing well, your boss will notice and you will have a better chance for a promotion. If you do not receive a promotion, identify the areas where you need to improve and keep trying.

Hard Spots

Everyone experiences hard spots at some time during their career. In this chapter, hard spots are considered to be bad bosses. Some bosses are simply hard to get along with because they are unhappy in the position they are in. The boss could also just be difficult to get along with because of his or her personality. To make the most out of the situation, first make sure that your boss isn’t difficult to get along with because of your performance. You must perform well and do your best to make your boss happy. If performance isn’t the problem, do the best you can and wait for a promotion or seek other opportunities.

Work Life Balance

The work-life balance concept is one of the most important concepts to individuals today. Everyone has their own work-life balance equations in their life. Some individuals prefer to spend more time with family while others enjoy working more often. Everyone’s work-life balance perception is different. To receive the work-life balance that best fits you, you must perform well and make your boss happy. If your boss is happy and knows you are able to achieve your goals, that boss will be more susceptible to give you want you’re asking for. At times the work-life balance concept may conflict and you must decide what is best for you.

The Video Lounge






This is a short video of Jack Welch being interviewed about his book “Winning.” During the interview, Jack Welch is asked to explain his thoughts about some of the topics in his book and what it takes to be a winner. He describes winning as an energizing and rewarding experience that everyone wants to be a part of. He also describes the best parts of being a leader as well as the most challenging.

Personal Insights

Why I think:

  • The author is one of the most brilliant people around.

Jack Welch is one of the most brilliant businessmen in history because he is very knowledgeable about what it takes to win and become successful. He has learned how to handle difficult situations by learning from his mistakes. He also understands how to manage and motivate different types of people to receive higher performance. Jack Welch is able to recognize what is most valuable in business and is more than willing to help others succeed. His knowledge and insight on business concepts and practices is informative and is important to learn from.

Then, all of the following bullet-items are mandatory to write about:

  • If I were the author of the book, I would have done these three things differently:

1. First, if I were the author of the book I would have used fewer examples. Jack Welch used so many examples in his book to relate to each topic; it felt as if I were reading an autobiography at times. Most of the examples were very helpful, but others were more difficult to understand and very lengthy.

2. Second, if I were the author of the book, I would have added more information about his own personal life and how being a leader impacted his life at home. Everyone knows Jack Welch as an excellent and very successful leader, but how did he deal with his own personal issues? Jack mentioned he was married twice and had children but doesn’t really give examples on how he was able to juggle both his family and work. This relates to the work-life balance chapter, because I am curious to learn more about the personal life as a CEO as well as the professional life.

3. Lastly, if I were the author of the book, I would have added a new section in the beginning of the book for new college graduates. The section would be on how to search for jobs upon college graduation, resume building, and interview tips. I feel that this book is very informative once you get into the management role, but it lacks helping new graduates taking their first step into the job market. If Jack Welch were to add a section including these topics into his book, it would be very helpful.

  • Reading this book made me think differently about the topic in these ways:

1. Reading this book made me think differently about differentiation. Jack Welch explained differentiation and how to classify employees by top, middle, and bottom performers. By using these classifications, it will be much easier to manage and motivate people to receive higher performance. I always understood that some individuals performed better and were easier to motivate than others, but the differentiation chapter really helped me understand how to relate to these individuals and manage them in the most efficient way.

2. Reading this book also made me think differently about crisis management. Everyone knows that a crisis is one of the most difficult situations to handle and could ultimately destroy a business if it isn’t dealt with properly. By reading Jack Welch’s tips on how to handle a crisis I have learned many valuable things to help the business recover such as being open about the situation and viewing it at its worst. This helps to avoid assumptions and prevent the situation from worsening.

3. Reading this book also made me think differently about hard spots. Most people relate hard spots to difficult bosses. This chapter was really interesting because I learned why difficult bosses can be extremely hard to get along with. Make sure your relationship with your boss is complicated because of your boss not because of your performance. If your boss is difficult to get along with because he is unhappy then deal with the situation until another opportunity arises.

  • I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by:

1. I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by striving to achieve promotions. I really enjoy doing the best I possibly can at my job, and I look forward to achieving my goal of earning promotions and bettering myself. In my career, I want to advance within a company and become a top manager. From this book, I have gathered a better insight on how to be a better performer to achieve my goal by expanding my job horizon and keeping a positive attitude.

2. I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by using candor. I have realized how important candor is in an organization. Not only does it create new and improved ideas, it allows each employee to identify where they stand. Candor is about being honest and open in an organization, and I agree with Jack Welch that it is much easier managing people when everyone is one the same page.

3. I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by using a work-life balance that best fits me. I have learned that to be successful in business a person must be dedicated to their job, but it is just as important to enjoy time doing things you love to do such as spending time with your family. Each person’s work-life balance in unique, and I plan to do the best I can as a future manager while enjoying time with my family.

  • Here is a sampling of what others have said about the book and its author:

Many critics view “Winning” as an inspiring and thought provoking book that focuses on current business concepts. Many of the theories Jack Welch describes in his book can be applied in everyday business operations, and many critics take great interest in the book. The most popular chapter in the book was Candor. Many critics feel that these concepts and ideas are very practical and give good insights on business practices today. They feel they can benefit and use the good advice that Jack Welch offers.

One the other hand, some critics say these practices are good but will take years to implement. Others feel as if Jack Welch is repeating himself from his previous book “Straight from the Gut.” They are viewing him as being more arrogant during his writing and feel there is nothing new to learn.  Others thought the book was very dull and the latter half of the book wasn’t as appealing as the first.

Bibliography

Brady, Diane. (2005). Welch Has More To Say. Really. Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved from
http://www.Businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_16/b3929031_mz005.htm

Hannon, Kerry (2005). Welch Shows The ‘Winning’ Side Of Business For All. USA Today. Retrieved from
http://www.usatoday.com/money/books/reviews/2005-0413-Welch-winning_x.htm

Sharf, Joshua. (2005) Book Review: Winning By Jack Welch. Blogcritics. Retrieved from http://Blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-winning-by-jack-Welch/

Welch, Jack., & Welch, Suzy. The Welch Way. The Official Site of Jack and Suzy Welch. Retrieved from
http://www.welchway.com/About-Us/Jack-Welch/JackPublications.aspx   

Welch, Jack., & Welch, Suzy. (2005). Winning. New York, New York: HarperCollins.

Winning By Jack Welch: A Money Book Summary. Character-Education. Retrieved from http://www.charactereducation.info/money/books/Jack_Welch_Winning.htm

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Contact Info

To contact the author of this article, “A Summary and Review of Winning by Jack and Suzy Welch for Thinking Executives – and Those Who Want to be One,” please email Jason.Sibley@selu.edu.

Biography

David C. Wyld (dwyld.kwu@gmail.com) is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, and executive educator. His blog, Wyld About Business, can be viewed at http://wyld-business.blogspot.com/. He also serves as the Director of the Reverse Auction Research Center (http://reverseauctionresearch.com/), a hub of research and news in the expanding world of competitive bidding. Dr. Wyld also maintains compilations of works he has helped his students to turn into editorially-reviewed publications at the following sites:

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