To Welch, change was simply a part of life, and certainly a part of business. He loved change and said that at his company, change was “in the blood” of its employees. How Welch felt about change, and how he got others at GE to feel about it, made an enormous difference in making the company so successful.
Most people don’t like change. Welch recognized this soon after taking over the company in the early 1980’s. He said that change was happening “at a much faster pace than business was reacting to it.” He knew that a great deal of change would be needed to make the company great. The problem was that most people at GE- and at other companies – did not understand why things had to change. After all, the company seemed to be doing fine.
But Welch was one of the first business leaders to “face reality.” To create the company he envisioned, Welch would have to change just about everything: the company’s focus, its products, its attitudes, behaviors, etc. Almost nothing stayed as it was, and he created a far more flexible, far more competitive organization.
The key to making a better GE was for Welch and the rest of the company to embrace change, rather than fear it. He saw change as an opportunity, not as a threat (that idea was so important to him that he made it a part of GE’s shared values).
In order to help your organization, and yourself, see change as an opportunity. Remember that change is a necessary thread in the fabric of life, and can bring many good things as well. Change does not always have to upset things and make things worse. In business, change is often the spark that ignites a good idea or a new business, or a revolutionary new product.
Here are some things to help you put change to work in your own work life:
Know that change is here to stay: Always know that change is with you and will never leave. If you accept that, and use it, you can gain an edge over those who do not know how to deal with change.
Expect the least expected, but move quickly to stay a step ahead: Not even Welch saw most of the things that would confront GE (e.g., the Internet). Often the difference between success and failure is getting a jump on things while competitors are regrouping.
Prepare those around you for the inevitable change that will affect their lives: Not only do you have to be prepared, so do the people around you. Talk about change in a positive light so people don’t fear it. Speak of it as an opportunity, not a threat.
Acknowledgement: The Welch Way book by Jeffrey A. Krames