Is Jack Welch a Turkey?
Jack Welch himself sure seems like the turkey with comments like this:
“Don't fall in love with your workers,” a business instructor tells a student who's launching a small startup company. “If you've got 16 employees, at least two are turkeys.”
I realize Jack Welch is no longer the CEO at GE. He doesn't speak for them anymore, but he was extremely influential on their culture and I'm sure he's revered even today. But I'm embarrassed that MIT and the Sloan School of Management (where I earned my MBA) is associated with comments like this.
There is a lot of buzz about how General Electric is adopting Lean in addition to Six Sigma. With a comment like Welch's (again, realizing he's teaching from the perspective of a retired old turkey not as GE CEO), I would suspect that GE will do better on the “eliminating waste” front than they will on the “respect for people” front. The Toyota Production System preaches respect for people — and that doesn't mean coddling someone if they truly are a poor performer. “Respect” doesn't mean being nice and making excuses for someone. But respect also means not calling names and insulting your current or former employees. Having respect for employees is hardly “falling in love with them.”
If GE had to force the bottom 10% out of the company (“And don't bother trying to improve the performance of underachievers in the bottom 10 percent of the company's work force, he said.”), you have to ask why GE would hire turkeys in the first place.
It reminds me of the great quote from Peter Scholtes — if you're firing dead wood, didn't you hire live trees to start with?
My understanding of the Toyota approach is 1) you're extremely careful in selecting people at hiring so you AVOID “turkeys” and 2) you coach and lead people, you develop them rather than giving up on them as “turkeys.” It's fair to tell someone they're underperforming and here are the things they need to do better. It seems disrespectful to tell someone they're a turkey to get rid of them. Toyota WOULD “bother” to try to improve the performance of people. Am I wrong on that?
Jack Welch speaks like this about people all the time. He's a man who apparently made money in spite of all the “turkeys” who worked for him. I guess money and financial success doesn't mean you have grace or class.
I guess Prof. Welch would call me a “boss hater” for daring to question his wisdom. Another obnoxious phrase he has spun. What do you think? Click on “comments” to participate.