Why is GE failing?

I can echo Brad Woods’ of GE’s collapse from another industry. I retired from a large transportation company. At one point, a group of shareholders managed to force on the corporation a chairman of the board who wasn’t satisfied with the primary company’s financial performance. He thought the industry was mature which was another way of saying it had no growth potential. Instead, he viewed it as a cash cow to finance other, more modern and, in his expectation, better prospects. He bought several companies that were peripheral to the main one. They weren’t bad investments except that he paid too much for them.

The main company would have gone the way of GE, taking the corporation with it, except for the arrival of a dynamic CEO from another industry. He motivated the troops by focusing on the mission of customer service, rewarding those who got with his program and encouraging them to bypass hidebound managers who wouldn’t. (One of the company’s weaknesses was a culture in which the prime values were mindless obedience to orders and not rocking the boat even if it was leaking.) I’m sure the CEO took satisfaction in generating financial results that dwarfed those from the chairman’s pet acquisitions.

In time, the chairman’s folly became so obvious that the rest of the major stockholders were able to force him out. The dynamic CEO moved on, too, shortly before dying from cancer. The company culture regressed somewhat but his proteges were in a position to retain most of his improvements. The corporation is doing fine and continuing to improve.

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