THE BIG PITCH: How should General Electric position itself in wake of CEO Welch’s retirement?

Tony Fox - Comedy Central, New York

Tony Fox - Comedy Central, New York

Tony Fox - Comedy Central, New York

Jack has already taken two of the most important steps that will

reassure Wall Street and stockholders. He has announced his retirement

well in advance, and he has basically said his successor will come from

inside GE. With Welsh known as perhaps the most successful manager in

corporate history, we know that his hand-picked successor will be

brilliant, accomplished and, most importantly, well-schooled in the

workings of GE and the Welch management philosophy. My advice would be

to name the successor as soon as possible and begin building his profile

immediately. He should be seen with Jack at every important business

function. It reminds me of the day when Lawrence Sommers took over as

secretary of the treasury from Robert Rubin. Don’t quote me on this, but

I believe the stock market went up that day.

Ryan Donovan - Text 100, San Francisco

Because of Welch’s success and the related admiration of GE, the

corporate positioning should comprise a short-term ’stay the course’

message. The principles and business practices put into place by Welsh

should remain as long as they continue to serve the company’s best

interest. That said, every CEO must put a personal stamp on a company

and evolution, not revolution, would be the preferred course of action

After a short period of intense internal outreach and intra-company

communications, the new CEO should be very visible to key media and

analyst influencers as soon as possible. Regardless, because of Welch’s

icon status, his predecessor will have enormous wing tips to fill.

Brad Wilks - Ogilvy PR, Chicago

GE’s masterful handling of the announcement of Welch’s intent to retire

and his planned timetable is solid indication that the company has

already begun the job of preparing for the post-Welch era. By announcing

Welch’s move a full 18 months in advance and during a period of strong

business momentum, as well as outlining the process through which the

company will groom a successor, GE has effectively defused a potentially

negative situation.

Over the next year and a half, the company should communicate the

message that it can handpick its new leader from what is arguably the

deepest pool of management talent in the world. Stakeholders can rest

assured in the knowledge that the insider who assumes the CEO mantle

will undoubtedly pursue the same strategies for profitable growth that

Welch himself initiated so successfully more than two decades ago.

Craig Maltby - Hanser & Associates, West Des Moines, IA

No one can replicate Welch’s legendary leadership (and shareholder

letters), but can the next CEO sustain what Welch created? GE should

reassure constituents that the Welch record will continue. Welch built

plenty of lead time into the search, and he may be primarily looking at

insiders. Premier organizations do that, from Coca-Cola to the Rolling

Stones. GE is known for developing world-class managers and promoting

from within. From a PR standpoint, sticking to your management

development philosophy while selecting your top manager would be

admirable. In this age of day-trading mentalities and quarterly

do-or-die pressures, it’s refreshing to see some old-fashioned long-term

thinking, discipline and organizational commitment.

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