General Electric established its Work-Out process in the early 1990's. It continues to e a mainstay in GE's efforts to initiate change. In the interim years, the Work-Out process has also been adopted by such diverse organizations as General Motors, Home Depot, Frito-Lay, L.L. Bean, Sears, IBM, and the World Bank.
The impetus for the Work-Out was the belief by GE's CEO that the company's culture was too bureaucratic and slow to respond to change. He wanted to create a vehicle that would effectively engage and empower GE workers.
Essentially, Work-Out brings together employees and managers from many different functions and levels within an organization for an informal 3-day meeting to discuss and solve problems that have been identified by employees or senior management. Set into small teams, people are encouraged to challenge prevailing assumptions about "the way we have always done things" and develop recommendations for significant improvements in organizational processes. The Work-Out teams then present their recommendations to a senior manager in a public gathering called a Town Meeting.
At the Town Meeting, the manager in charge oversees a discussion about the recommendation and then is required to make a yes-or-no decision on the spot. Only in unusual circumstances can a recommendation be tabled for further study. Recommendations that are accepted are assigned to managers who have volunteered to carry them out. Typically, a recommendation will move from inception to implementation in 90 days or less. The logic behind the Work-Out is to identify problems, stimulate diverse input, and provided a mechanism for speedy decision and action.
More recently, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt has extended the future technologies and engage in long-range planning. GE wants all its managers to be adept at the kind of strategic thinking that most companies entrust only to senior management. For example, GE is offering managers new classes focused on learning how to create new lines of business.
1. What type of change process would you call this?
2. Why should it work?
3. What negative consequences do you think might result from this process?
4. Why do you think new GE CEO Jeff Immelt has revised the Work-Out concept?
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