GE is a company that is used to reinventing itself by implementing new management methods and techniques periodically. It has implemented a strategic focus on simplification over the last several years. The company builds complex products. Employees and customers were noting that the company itself had become too complex: Customer outcomes were slowing as processes grew burdensome. Simplification is now an integrated part of GE’s strategy, encompassing lean management, speed and competitiveness, commercial intensity, and digital capability.
First, GE is asking leaders to implement lean management: remove layers, increase spans of control, and reduce the number of checks and approvals needed to get things done. Wherever there is complexity and duplication, shared activity and services is being advocated. The company is implementing new digital technologies that simplify work and make employees more productive wherever possible.
Second, GE has developed a program called FastWorks. FastWorks involves a new way of working that begins with an intensified focus on—and understanding of—customer needs. Experimenting and iterating quickly to create solutions that add value or create value are hallmarks of the approach. FastWorks is being used throughout GE to help teams move faster, bring GE closer to customers, and to maintain a high level of customer input and involvement across the product lifecycle.
Third, GE is promoting belief, and behavioral changes to help leaders and employees reduce complexity and to create a new culture within GE. The culture of simplification is coming to life through a set of new “GE Beliefs,” which are focused on delivering fast, better solutions to customers. The GE Beliefs, created through a crowdsourcing process within GE, are:
Customers determine our success
Stay lean to go fast
Learn and adapt to win
Empower and inspire each other
Deliver results in an uncertain world
The GE Beliefs play are used to change how GE recruits, how it manages and leads, and how its people are evaluated and developed.
Fourth, GE has recently redesigned its performance management process, with an emphasis on agility, continuous discussions, and customer outcomes. Today, managers emphasize priorities, helping employees continuously adapt and channel their efforts to the most important customer needs. The old world told people to “do more with less.” Today, GE tells its people to “do fewer things better.” The focus on simplification is helping employees to focus as well as helping the company to operate faster, compete more vigorously, reduce costs, and improve quality. For GE, simplification is now part of its new culture, as the new behavior is giving positive results. Culture is the result of behavior that leads to positive outcomes.