Ok, who abducted the Jack Welch we’ve come to know and… err… whatever. The turkey who has said that "a paycheck means you have a job for another two weeks." The guy who couldn’t find any reason to keep manufacturing in-house and domestic.
For grins and giggles I’ll often skim over his column on the last page of each BusinessWeek. Generally it’s filled with experienced insight on how to play the political game and climb the management ladder. About halfway through I’ll usually toast the gods that he’s retired, although unfortunately still influencial.
But in the January 15th issue he is obviously under the influence of something. Perhaps Suzy, who I’ve heard has a bit more of a human-centric streak in her. Suddenly our buddy Neutron Jack is in love with factory workers. Of course they are Chinese factory workers, which probably warmed his heart a bit, but still factory workers.
The question to Jack and presumably Suzy had to deal with how to avoid a strike at a Chinese factory. Jack dug into it, with some of the following quotes being the most memorable:
When local labor issues erupt, the trouble can usually be traced not to workplace conditions, but to workplace leadership.
… you can minimize the chances of a future strike by employing plant leaders who are transparent, candid, fair, and respectful.
The first principle is really a mindset: an understanding by management that your workers are your people. You win and lose together. When plant managers have that mindset, it is much more natural for them to practice the second principle: Give workers a voice and dignity.
Factory workers need to know they are more to the company than just a pair of hands at a machine. Their ideas count. How does a plant manager prove that? First by listening, both at forums where workers are encouraged to discuss ways to improve operations, and informally, by walking the floor.
Plant managers also give workers dignity by communicating with unrelenting candor and transparency. About what? Well, everything. Costs, the competitive situation, growth plans, economic bumps ahead.
Has Jack really gone to the gemba and discovered the off-balance sheet value of worker experience and knowledge? Treating people with respect? Leveraging their creativity? Listening to their ideas? Actually realizing that factories exist and have people in them?
I doubt it. There’s too much history and too many of his books pointing in the opposite direction. I’m guessing his next column will be yet another diatribe about how it’s important to whack the bottom 10% each year.