At the Fortune Global CEO Forum in October 2020, H. Lawrence “Larry” Culp, Jr., the Chairman, and CEO of General Electric shared about how GE is looking to the future. He said that GE knew what would go well in 2020 and what would fail in the Covid-19 period. As everyone knows, aviation is calling for big changes which GE is making, and it is leveraging its healthcare businesses and resources and seeing where GE can take advantage of these challenges to accelerate its transformation.
Much of what he shared is either reassuring or welcome news to investors, business people of all stripes, and all of us challenged by Covid and the 2020 scrum. First, business travelers should know that Culp is clear: aviation will come back, people will fly again. For those who follow GE’s portfolio: place your bets as you will.
A key insight Culp shared: “there’s no tension between been lean and being resilient.” He referenced the Jim Collins aphorism of the genius of the ‘and’ and how GE’s customers said the company has great technology and a great team, but it’s clear GE can do better operationally. Culp said that improving quality and delivery through their lean tools is needed.
General Electric is looking at the strategic breakthroughs needed to lead in the categories in which they play. Culp reports that GE has found that through teams and other conversations they can actually accelerate the work on those breakthroughs in the Covid-19 world. While he doesn’t see being able to replicate fully the impact of face-to-face work, he is optimistic about success in the virtual dimension. That said, nothing replaces being with customers and observing first-hand the problems they have which they need to be solved. Culp is satisfied saying, “Technology has helped us like most companies to collaborate across borders. We’re not replicating all we were doing pre-Covid, but we’ve done a lot.”
As a side benefit, Culp says, this kind of work can positively accelerate cultural change. As CEO, he recognizes that GE is early in its transformation, somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd inning, though Covid-19 has pushed GE’s timelines a bit. Culp promises that the company will play to its strengths, add capabilities, and continue the progress that has already made. Culp summarized by saying, “I think we’re building momentum at GE.”