CEO Larry Culp’s Vision: Building a Lean Culture at General Electric

The Lean Mindset - See the entire series of posts

I was surprised that GEO CEO Larry Culp's opening remarks weren't shared in the YouTube recordings from the GE Lean Mindset event held in New York and live-streamed earlier this month.

His comments were brief, but he had a lot of great things to share, which I'll share from my notes.

Larry said that customers and suppliers ask him, “What is Lean, and how do I do this?”

The GE event was designed for an in-person audience that mainly consisted of representatives from customers and suppliers. ‘The GE event was designed for an in-person audience that mainly consisted of representatives from customers and suppliers.

Larry said they could have taken everybody to a GE factory to learn, where they “could have gone deep, but an event like this was set up for “far and wide” education (and they can still take customers and suppliers to the “gemba” at their factories, which I'm assuming they do).

“Continous improvement is the goal.”

Larry Culp (Photo by Mark Graban)

As Larry teed up the day, he promised we'd hear “different words, but similar mindsets.” This would include a “lifelong learning tendency that all the speakers have.” You can gauge that for yourself through the videos, and I think he was correct.

Read my previous blog post about common themes:

But back to Larry's remarks… he said he has been on this Lean journey for over 30 years, which started with a trip to Japan for a week in the early 90s, where he was “yelled at” most of the time while building air conditioners on an assembly line.

Larry mentioned three mindsets and principles:

The importance of “going to gemba” to serve the operators rather than sitting in fancy conference rooms.

Kaizen: a mindset for continuous improvement and a methodology.

How it's ultimately about the customer and adding value.

Larry said you have to “create an environment,” and they focus on “building a culture of humility, transparency, and focus” at GE.

“We're not done, but that's the path we're on.”

Other comments, quoting as closely as I can:

“You can't just talk about it. You have to change the way that you work. Lean is the way we've done about that. It's not just manufacturing. We use this approach everywhere.”

He ended with, “Our mantra is SQDC in that order,” as I've already written about here:

  • Safety
  • Quality
  • Delivery
  • Cost

Larry Culp's Closing Remarks

The video of his final comments are available on YouTube:

From my notes…

Larry commented about the opportunity to connect the dots between various speakers. The dots he connected are:

First, “Lean applies everywhere… or at least it can if you let it.” He hopes the day inspires you to begin a Lean journey, personally and with your organizations. “It can be highly impactful and good fun.”

Secondly, “Any Lean journey really begins with us as leaders of our organization.”

Larry is frequently asked, “What's a common failure mode” for this? When a leader aspires to put a team on that path… and brings in consultants and has them dive in somewhere in the middle of the organization… it might get off to a start, but that's all you get.

Larry said leaders must “set the expectation, walk the talk, and stay with it.” Lean can't be implemented in a flavor-of-the-day effort.

Finally, and most importantly, it's very important to make this a team sport, referencing the session with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the one with Peyton Manning (whose excellent session was streamed, but isn't available in the recordings).

“When you make this about the team, you can do great things.”

What else stood out to you from his concluding remarks?

Again, please check out the entire series of videos here. As Larry said in the video, look through any notes you took and look for two or three things (not twenty) that you can do differently as a result (or stop doing).

I'm about to head off on vacation for two weeks, but I'll be back with more blog posts about the other speakers and their sesions.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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