Wednesday, August 31, 2005

An Evening With Jeffery Immelt

I don't know much about Jeff Immelt. I know a little bit about the "straight from the gut" Jack. But Jeff Immelt, CEO General Electric (GE), guest speaker at the conclusion of the Michigan's Leadership program, was pretty much unknown quantity. He is an ivy league dude. He has an undergrad degree at Dartmouth and a MBA from Harvard Business School. So he did the right things at the right time :-) dotted all the i's and crossed the t's. So he told us his thoughts about leadership and what business school should mean to us.

I sort of liked the guy and certainly felt he knew how to connect with people. He was a tall person and had a security personel on the front and back. I guess being a head of a 170 billion$ company requires you to have some security stuff going on. The first year MBAs have a 2 day charity event Wednesday and Thursday, where we build a house or do something similar. Traditionally, every year, Jeff Immelt's talk would be on the Thursday evening after we'd completed all the hard work. But in his own words "my daughter's joining college on Thursday, I have to accompany her and so I changed the dates. In life you must understand your priorities". So there you go he connected with people right away.

Listening to him talk was a good experience. He told us the value of a business school degree and asked us not to ignore "boring" courses like HR courses. His main stress was on doing menial work. With many examples from real life, he explained how he did work that was not something an MBA would do, and at the same time never thought "I am a Harvard MBA. This is below my dignity". What I understood from his speech was that no job is below anybody's dignity ( I have not come to terms with this yet). He also took us through his first week as CEO ( 3 days after he became CEO -- 9/11 happened). And in the concluding phases of his speech, he let us know his thoughts on leadership. I think he said, (1) great leaders develop other leaders (2) leaders are good listeners who can separate the chatter and focus on that 1 good idea, (3) leaders are good people-persons, and (4) leaders pay and take risks to earn their ambitions.

Finally he fielded questions on his relationship with Jack Welsch, his most challenging decision (which was to shut down an appliances plant) and his globalization philosophy. One thing is becoming clear to me in the first week at an American Business school. Globalization is a big thing. India is now on everybody's radar. Jeff Immelt is a big pro-globalization guy. He openly said "we have to close plants here and layoff people to open new ones in China and India". I heard the word India being uttered at least 50 times by Jeff Immelt in his speech in various contexts. I heard India being uttered 10,000 times in the last 1 week by various professors. Gave me goose pimples ( and I am not even that kind of extreme flag waving patriotic, so imagine how it must have been for the every time i open my mouth I'll say "mera bharat mahaan" dudes). India is certainly slated to be a superpower by 2050 barring any big catastrophe. China is much ahead of India in projections and any other predictions. It is seen as a much bigger investment potential than India. The pie charts and maps constantly show China as overtaking the US and India as overtaking Germany in the future. I have always been skeptical about India's place in the world's economic future. This last 1 week has told me one thing, the people who matter think India has arrived.

12 comments:

Ram said...

Thanks for the detailed post. It was the next best thing to being there. I hope you get the time to give such details through your experience at Ross without compromising your family life ;-)

I am not sure whether I matter, but India is going to get there, yet some of the things that Shankar has stated in his movies should be well remembered.

Anonymous said...

Yeah and when I visit I wonder exactly what they base this thinking on :-(

v.

Anupadmaja said...

And regarding the "no job is menial work" ... i am sure 75% or more of us thought about a janitor's job or something physical as being referred to here. But man we are so arrogant. Everybody wants to get robust software but nobody wants to test! Very bad state of affairs. We have so many good developers but i have never come across an above average tester. The day when testers feel passion for their jobs is when software will pick hints of quality! Dont know which was the first set of idiots that trademarked testing as menial job!


And for those who do not care for software ... i am sure you can pick such people in your fields too ... how about the percentage of people in government offices who dont have any self motivation/passion for their own jobs! There is no sense of responsibility among these people because they dont think high of their work!

Anupadmaja said...

"There is no sense of responsibility among these people because they dont think high of their work!"

What i actually meant to write was:

There is no sense of responsibility among these people because they think their work is insignificant. That by doing their job well, there is no gain! But its only little drops of water that make a mighty ocean. Eg. If every employee responded with an answer to our question instead of a re-direction to another person, we wouldnt hate going to govt offices so much!

jomy said...

Wow .....you get to meet such influential people !!

and I always thought MBA after engg is boring ..... :)

So , is it only Indians ( read DF's )who think lowly of India .... Wow I'm impressed !

Maharajan said...

Anupadmaja, what is the point of sermonizing?

There is no sense of responsibility among these people....
This statement reeks of assumed moral high-ground... never any good...

Hawkeye, I can only reiterate what Ram has said... it would truly be a great opportunity to use your insights of life in a b-school... of course, I have no business to request this... but, for whatever it's worth... keep up the nice work buddy..

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Hi, I came to your blog through a long series of links, never mind how. Your writing definitely touched me, and I guess I too feel proud being an Indian once more... do keep us posted about what are the new things you learnt there.

Senthil said...

It's true that a lot of us have under estimated India's potential in the future.
Bharath if u do find time try to keep posting bout all the guest speakers ;-)
Woow anupadmaja cool down, it's just a few people's perspective about testing that got propagated widely...
I know of guys who are proud of testing and u shud see their devious grins when they find defects :-)

Anupadmaja said...

Sorry about having posted a long comment Bharath and others!

Maharajan ...
When i say irresponsible this is the scale that i measure against:
The kind of passion that makes a person strive to render 100% performance and add value to the work ... not just as much as is possible before the deadline! On these lines yes, majority of us are slackers! Testers, developers, managers, etc all fall under the category!

So there is no sermonizing! There is no reeking of assumed moral high-ground or anything of that sort. I am not talking about the small percentage of below average workers that cheat! I am talking about the big percentage that are doing their job but just for the heck of it.

And for my example, i picked the one field where its very common to hear "I deserve better. I am only doing it coz i have to". And my point is - "yes you do deserve better but that shouldnt stop one from doing his job very well so long as you hold on to it." The job is being paid for because somebody is interested in the service directly or indirectly. No job is insignificant. Thats why i quoted "little drops of rain ..." Its not fair to expect every person to be employed in that single job which is considered significant! Also, if all of us were presidents, who is going to be the public!

My opinion is that unless such passion develops in every kind of work, the percentage of inefficiencies we see around us will always be high! I am dreaming of an utopia. But i am sure we all can attain 75% if every one of us aimed for 100%. (Thats coz i realize that an ideal curve (utopia = 100%) is defined as one that is never achievable :)).


And Senthil ...
I would like to re-iterate ... its about the percentage! And the reason i chose testers as an example was because i thought it would be a good example that people could relate to easily! The moral of my comment is: Whether you think you deserve better or not and whether you find your job significant or not ... one should do his job with complete sincerity, other wise you add a small percentage to the big inefficiency number for the whole industry.

I guess its my bad! My comment was supposed to foster love for the job, not quote lowly of anyone. As always, the good intention in my comment was over-shadowed by my writing style! Did not mean any offense! And yes i have the bad reputation for quoting examples. Its a truth that i have uncovered out of my experiences: examples are taken well only when they are complimentary. I chose to use an example to set the context for my talk. That apparently has instigated a negative aura around my comment! The examples i quoted are jobs that i would like to respect more because i see the employees doing them meticulously, sincerely and efficiently. And in the utopian sense, they would be adding value to the job by means of small innovations (wisdom, experience, knowledge, tools, etc.) that they leave behind for the next generation.

I hope i have done a better job this time.

fieryblaster said...

'I have always been skeptical about India's place in the world's economic future. '

But I was not bharath. i won't say that it is due to logical analysis i performed. that was my strong wish, which got transformed into belief. the information which u provided abt how the so called 'people who matter' think abt India acted as a booster.

Anonymous said...

hey bharat - need to talk to you about Ross, if you have the time. any mail id of yours where i can contact ?

cheers
itsmeamit7@gmail.com

Muthu Pugal said...

Wow, I am sure his speech was really good. Thanks for the post.

I love the concept of separate the chatter and focus on one good point...