How Jack Welch Can Help Change IT

A major topic in the adoption of Data Center Automation, or any massive change in an organization, is if the culture will accept that change.  Resistance tends to be positively correlated to the impact and severity of the change.  Data Center Automation tends to try to breakdown many walls in an IT Organization, and can be one of the more heavily resisted initiatives.


A good example of overcoming resistance to change is the story of Jack Welch, former GE CEO.  When Jack started at GE, he instituted a policy to make GE the #1 or #2 company in any line of business that GE was involved with. This decision was met with extreme levels of resistance and was not a popular decision.  As a result of this decision, GE closed unprofitable lines of business and completely revamped GE.  Under Jack’s tenure, GE grew from a $14 billion company to a $410 billion company.  Lesson: Sometimes the unpopular decision is still the right one.


Jack also had another interesting philosophy in regards to organizational culture.  Jack thought the people in an organization could be placed in 1 of 4 buckets, as seen below.





Makes  Money For Company


Doesn’t  Make Money



Fits Culture



1. Retain



2. Retrain



Doesn’t Fit  Culture



3. Eliminate



4. Eliminate




Essentially, employees can be lumped in one of the above buckets.  Fits culture and makes money (Bucket 1); fits culture but doesn’t make money (2); doesn’t fit but makes money (3); doesn’t fit and doesn’t make money (4). Those employees in bucket 1 are easy to know what to do with.  Those employees in bucket 2 should be retrained in another part of the organization; maybe they just aren’t in the right position.  Bucket 4 is easy to deal with; cut them loose and give those employees the opportunity to be productive at another organization. Hanging onto them only drags the employee and the organization down further. 


Bucket 3 is where most of the challenge lies.  These employees help make the company money, but they do not fit the overall culture of the company.  Their day to day actions are often subversive to the goals of the company, but through random acts of heroics, they produce results for the organization and are often retained.  Think of how many people like this you have encountered in your own IT organization. The person in the meeting that has an objection to every topic brought up.  The person that never lets the ball move forward.  But in a moment of crisis, they step up to fix a problem, or end an outage. Then are then regarded as priceless and irreplaceable.  Jack’s philosophy was to let these people go as well. The 5% of them being productive is outweighed by the 95% of them being a cancer to the organization.  Lesson:While it is tough to let someone go, you are only holding that person back from being productive in another organization by retaining them.


The last lesson from Jack that can be applied to IT organizations is the need for big disruptive change.  Jack’s philosophy was that incremental change is much easier to resist than big sweeping changes.  Big sweeping changes often bring more people on board at once, and the detractors are more easy to spot and isolate.  Incremental changes are often about grass-root campaigns that are started by one or two people and are easily squashed by detractors.  Also, people are often hesitant to join incremental change initiatives because of fear of failure or retributions.  People don’t often have the guts to be the first follower, and incremental change fails.  Lesson: Don’t be afraid to blow up the world and shake things up by making big sweeping changes.


Any new IT initiative is sure to be met with resistance.  While Jack Welch’s ideas were seen as revolutionary at the time, Jack has been regarded as one of the best managers of the 20th century. Change is tough, but using some of the basic tenants of Jack’s management philosophy, you can make change happen in your IT organization. 

These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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