Most people my age have already said or will ask upon seeing this review “you are reading this book only now?” Straight from the Gut is considered to be the one of the most influential books in business management and leadership and yes, I was late to pick up this book.
By the same token, reviewing this book is also a precarious task — I have to be careful what I am saying because I — not the book — will be judged based on this.
After reading this book, I am somewhat convinced that the super-ideal reader of this book is someone who is a GE employee or ex-employee, a GE watcher, a Jack admirer/ student or most importantly someone more familiar with the workings of the company and the who’s who of the company.
Welch provides a non-boring account of how his dynasty came about, how he led it through his impeccable vision, army-like discipline, bullet-proof conviction and intuition. All said, people of his caliber don’t bother to write unabashed, sometimes abrasive account of people they had to encounter, win, side-step and groom. And while at it, he also provides a transparent view of his share of mistakes, flaws and admits to being anal-retentive.
I got particularly excited towards the later sections of the book, especially where he describes how GE went about Six Sigma as well the chapters in the summation section (chap 24 is priceless). Perhaps the most inspiring part of Jack to me is his focus on people. The entire book has this philosophy written in every page and I am also amazed by how much he could remember about his interactions with so many people — strategic aspects as well as the trivia. And finally, the final chapter was a moving account of the selection of the next CEO of the conglomerate.
Overall it is a decent read, but I am not sure the book itself can be considered the bible of leadership and management. Throughout this book, I couldn’t help myself thinking may be Buffett should write a book like this and I will find it extremely intriguing. Or has he written one already?
Lastly, if you have read my book reviews, you will know that I am quick to criticize the editor, usually for not doing a good job for editing down the page count. This book, while being long, did not come across as “needs edit” because every line talks about a transaction worth millions or billions or some quality very core to GE. It must have been hard for the editor to use his scissors, but the reality is, assuming you are seeking to learn leadership and management concepts, you don’t need to know about Jack’s honeymoon in Barbados, or what he had for dinner during a certain meeting, or whether it was Jay Leno or David Letterman who made it to the night slot on his NBC network. There you go — I managed to find some shortcoming of the book.