General Electric Case Study


Managing the multi-business corporation to meet high performance expectations is problematic. Publicly traded companies are pressured to return favorable quarterly results and as corporations grow larger and more complex, it becomes harder to manage such corporations effectively. General Electric (GE) was once one of the most admired corporations in the world. Today, GE is facing a much-reduced outlook. For this week’s assignment, read the case study found in your textbook (Case 20): Restructuring General Electric.

Remember, a case study is a puzzle to be solved, so before reading and answering the specific case and study questions, develop your proposed solution by following these five steps:

  1. Read the case study to identify the key issues and underlying issues. These issues are the principles and concepts of the course area which apply to the situation described in the case study.
  2. Record the facts from the case study which are relevant to the principles and concepts of the course area issues. The case may have extraneous information not relevant to the current course area. Your ability to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information is an important aspect of case analysis, as it will inform the focus of your answers.
  3. Describe in some detail the actions that would address or correct the situation.
  4. Consider how you would support your solution with examples from experience or current real-life examples or cases from textbooks.
  5. Complete this initial analysis and then read the discussion questions. Typically, you will already have the answers to the questions but with a broader consideration. At this point, you can add the details and/or analytical tools required to solve the case.

Case Study Questions:

  1. Why was GE considered to be such an exemplary organization? (Discuss GE’s management systems and performance.)
  2. Discuss the nature of GE’s corporate portfolio under Welch and Imelt. Did the nature of GE’s portfolio under Welch and Imelt provide superior results?
  3. If GE’s portfolio mix gave superior results, why was it necessary to restructure the portfolio?
  4. Why is GE’s performance no longer superior? What are the reasons for the collapse in GE’s financial performance during 2016-2018?
  5. What should be done to return GE to higher levels of performance? Does GE need to refocus? Which businesses or products would you recommend abandoning or divesting, if any? Does GE need to make additional acquisitions to supplement existing GE assets?

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CONTEMPORARY STRATEGY ANALYSIS tenth edition Robert M. Grant John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2019 Chapter 13 Implementing Corporate Strategy: Managing the Multibusiness Corporation 1 Implementing Corporate Strategy: Managing the Multibusiness Corporation OUTLINE • The Role of Corporate Management • Managing the Corporate Portfolio • Managing Linkages across Businesses • Managing Individual Businesses • Managing Change in the Multibusiness Corporation • Governance of Multibusiness Corporations Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. THE ROLE OF CORPORATE MANAGEMENT How does Corporate Management add Value to its Individual Businesses? • Managing the corporate portfolio —including acquisitions, divestments, and resource allocation • Managing linkages among businesses • Managing each individual business

• Managing change Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio of businesses Insurance Energy General Re GEICO BH Primary BHRG Mid American Energy Northern Powergrid PacificCorp NV Energy Retail Nebraska Furniture Mart RC Willey Home Furnishings Borsheims Pampered Chef Pampered Chef Dairy Queen BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INC. See’s Candy Media and Services Home Services of America Store Capital BH Media Business Wire NetJets © 2019 Robert M. Grant, Manufacturing Lubrizoil CTB International Fruit of the Loom Google Books Clayton Homes IMC Main Portfolio Investments • Heinz Kraft • Apple • Coca-Cola • Wells Fargo • American Express • Phillips 66 • Goldman Sachs • Delta Airlines MANAGING THE CORPORATE PORTFOLIO The Uses of Portfolio Planning Models in Strategy Formulation • Allocating resources—indicating both the investment requirements of different businesses and their likely returns

• Formulating business-unit strategy—offering generic strategy recommendations (e.g.: “build”, “hold”, or “harvest”) • Setting performance targets—indicating likely performance outcomes in terms of cash flow and ROI • Portfolio balance—guiding business portfolio changes in order to achieve corporate goals such as a balanced cash flow by combining mature and growing businesses. Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. MANAGING THE CORPORATE PORTFOLIO Industry Attractiveness The GE/McKinsey Matrix High Medium Low Low Medium High Business Unit Position Industry Attractiveness Criteria – Market size – Market growth – Industry profitability – Inflation recovery – Overseas sales ratio Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Business Unit Position – Market share (domestic, global, and relative)

– Competitive position – Relative profitability MANAGING THE CORPORATE PORTFOLIO HIGH Earnings: low, unstable, growing Earnings: high stable, growing Cash flow: negative Cash flow: neutral Strategy: Strategy: invest for growth analyze the potential to develop the business into a “star” Earnings: LOW Annual real rate of market growth (%) The BCG Growth-Share Matrix ?

low, unstable Earnings: high stable Cash flow: neutral or negative Cash flow: high stable Strategy: divest Strategy: milk HIGH LOW Relative market share Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. MANAGING THE CORPORATE PORTFOLIO Ashridge Portfolio Display: The Potential for Patenting Advantage LOW HEARTLAND BALLAST Potential for value destruction from misfit between needs of the business and patent’s corporate management style –typical legacy business: good fit high, but limited potential to add value EDGE OF HEARTLAND –businesses with high potential for adding value — less value adding potential; more risk is of value destruction ALIEN TERRITORY VALUE TRAP –exit: no potential for value creation –lack of management fit limits potential to add value HIGH LOW HIGH Potential for parent to add value to the business © 2019 Robert M. Grant, MANAGING THE CORPORATE PORTFOLIO Do Portfolio Planning Models Help or Hinder Corporate Strategy Formulation? ADVANTAGES • Simplicity: Quick and easy to prepare • Big picture: Permits one page representation of the corporate portfolio & strategic positioning of each business • Analytically versatile: Applicable to businesses, products, countries, distribution channels. • Can be augmented: A useful point of departure for more sophisticated analysis Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. DISADVANTAGES

• Simplicity: Oversimplifies the factors determining industry attractiveness and competitive advantage • Ambiguity: The positioning of a business depends critically upon how a market is defined • Ignores synergy: the analysis takes no account of any interdependencies between businesses MANAGING LINKAGES ACROSS BUSINESSES Sources of Synergy within the Multibusiness Corporation ▪ Shared corporate services: Centralizing services such as IT, HR, purchasing, research, facilities management exploits cost economies and develops capabilities ▪ Transferring skills between businesses: E.g. LVMH transfers brand management capabilities; P&G transfers technologies and product development skills across product sectors and across countries ▪ Sharing resources and activities: E.g. Virgin Group shares its brand across its businesses; Samsung Electronics’ globally dispersed design centers serve all its businesses BUT, Exploiting synergies is not costless: Transferring skills and sharing resources and activities tends to involve the corporate HQ in managing relationships between the businesses and complicates the appraisal of business performance Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

MANAGING INDIVIDUAL BUSINESSES The McKinsey Restructuring Pentagon Current market value 1 Current perceptions gap Company value as is 2 Strategic and operating opportunities RESTRUCTURING FRAMEWORK Potential value with internal improvements Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Maximum raider opportunity 3 Disposal/acquisition opportunities 4 5 Optimal restructured value Total company opportunities Potential value with external improvements MANAGING INDIVIDUAL BUSINESSES Exxon’s Strategic Planning Process Economic Review Energy Review Stewardship Review Business Plans Discussion with contact director Financial Forecast Stewardship Basis Investment Reappraisals Annual Budget Approval by Mgmt. Committee Corporate Plan MANAGING INDIVIDUAL BUSINESSES Rethinking Strategic Planning Critiques of strategic planning:

• Strategic planning systems don’t make strategy—strategic planning a ritualistic process, but most strategic decisions are made outside the system • Weak execution—procedures for converting plans into actions are weak. Proposals for improving execution include: – Strategic milestones – Strategy maps – Replacing strategic planning units by “offices of strategy management” Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. MANAGING INDIVIDUAL BUSINESSES Performance Management and Financial Control • Multibusiness companies have a dual planning process: – Strategic planning: medium and long term – Financial planning : short-term • The two are closely linked.

Strategic plan is a basis for: – Operating budget – Capital expenditure budget – Annual performance plans – Strategic milestones • Balance between strategic and financial control: – Varies by firm and sector – There’s a trade-off between the two—more of one means less of the other Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 8 MANAGING INDIVIDUAL BUSINESSES Strategic Planning and Financial Control as Alternative Modes of Corporate Control Two basic approaches Input control Output control Monitoring and approving business level decisions Setting performance targets and monitoring their achievement Primarily through strategic planning system and capital expenditure approval system Primarily through performance management system, including operating budgets, scorecards, milestones, and HR appraisals Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. MANAGING INDIVIDUAL BUSINESSES Alternative Corporate Management Styles Strategic planning

Financial control Business strategy formulation Strategy formulated by businesses; corporate HQ guides and coordinates Strategy formulated at business unit level; HQ exerts financial control Controlling performance Primarily strategic goals with medium- to long-term horizon Financial budgets set annual targets—monitored quarterly Advantages Exploits (a) linkages among businesses, (b) innovation, (c) long-term development Business unit autonomy conducive to initiative, responsiveness, and efficiency Disadvantages Loss of divisional autonomy and initiative Unitary strategic view Tendency to persist with failing strategies Short-term focus discourages innovation and long-term development Limited sharing of resources and capabilities Style suited to Companies with few closely related businesses Capital and technologyintensive sectors with large, long term investment projects Highly diversified companies with low relatedness among businesses Mature, low-tech sectors where investment projects small and short term Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

MANAGING`CHANGE IN THE MULTBUSINESS CORPORATION The Challenge of Leading Change ❑ The Problem: Counteracting Inertia – The bigger and more complex the company—the greater the forces of inertia ❑ Facilitating change: – Adaptive tension Imposing high performance expectation on individual and departments can create not just stress, but dynamism and responsiveness that counteracts complacency (e.g. Jack Welch at GE) – Institutionalizing change Shift focus of strategic planning from resource allocation to sensing and responding to external change (e.g. IBM) – New business development Incubating the new businesses that will ultimately replace the old (Amazon, Netflix, Nokia) – Top-down, large-scale development initiatives—the CEO as change leader e.g. Samsung Electronics; Haier Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. GOVERNANCE OF MULTBUSINESS CORPORATIONS The Challenge of Corporate Governance

• What are the rights of shareholders? – To transfer shares, access company information, elect directors, share in the profits of the firm, vote on key strategic decisions – Despite potential for divisions to develop distinctive strategies and structures—corporate systems may impose uniformity. • What are the responsibilities of Company Boards? – To act in the best interests of the company and its shareholders – To oversee strategy, budgets, management performance, etc. • What’s gone wrong? – Failure by boards to prevent managers pursuing their interests rather than those of shareholders (e.g. excessive compensation) – Failure board to take account of social/national interest

• What other problems do multidivisional corporations face? – Lack of decentralization of decision making to divisional managers – Standardization of management systems across divisions Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. GOVERNANCE OF MULTBUSINESS CORPORATIONS Highest Earning CEOs of US Companies 2016 Rank CEO Company Direct compensation ($m) 1 Thomas Rutledge Charter Communications 98 2 Leslie Moonves CBS 69 3 Robert A. Iger Walt Disney 41 4 David Zaslav Discovery Communications 37 5 Robert Kotick Activision Blizzard 33 6 Brian Roberts Comcast Corp. 33 7 Jeffrey L. Bewkes Time Warner 33 8 Virginia Rometty 32 9 Leonard Schleifer 10 Stephen Wynn IBM Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Wynn Resorts Ltd. Copyright © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 28 28 Case 20 Restructuring General Electric The appointment of Larry Culp as the chairman and CEO of the General Electric Company (GE) on October 1st, 2018 was a clear indication of the seriousness of the problems that had engulfed the company. Culp, the former CEO of the highly-successful conglomerate, Danaher Corporation, had been appointed a GE director only six months previously and was the first outsider to lead GE—every one of GE’s previous CEOs had been a career manager at the company.

On the same day as Culp’s appointment, GE abandoned its earning guidance for the year and announced a $23 billion accounting charge arising from a write-down of goodwill at its troubled electrical power division.1 Culp’s predecessor, John Flannery had been CEO for a mere 14 months—a sharp contrast to GE’s two previous CEOs: Jeff Immelt (16 years) and Jack Welch (20 years). Flannery’s tenure at GE has coincided with of the company’s most difficult periods in its entire 126-year history. In November 2017, amidst deteriorating financial performance, Flannery announced a halving of GE’s quarterly dividend, the proposed sale of its lighting and locomotive units—two of GE’s oldest businesses—and the elimination of 12,000 jobs in the power division. In 2018, the situation worsened. In January, GE announced that it would be paying $15 bn. to cover liabilities at insurance companies it had sold 12 years previously.

In ­February, GE confirmed suspicions over its dubious accounting practices by restating its revenues and earnings for the previous two years, while also announcing the likelihood of legal claims arising from its its subprime mortgage lending over a decade earlier. The outcome was a precipitous fall in GE’s share price (see Figure 1) that culminated in GE’s dismissal from the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). Until June 2018, GE was the sole surviving member of the DJIA when it was created in 1896. The crisis at GE presented the board with two central questions. First, should GE be broken up? Second, if GE was to continue as a widely-diversified company, how should it be managed? As a diversified corporation that extended from jet engines, to oil and gas equipment, to healthcare products, to financial services, GE was an anomaly. For three decades, conglomerates—diversified companies comprising unrelated or loosely related businesses— had been deeply unfashionable.

CEOs, Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt, had claimed that, by virtue of its integrated management system and knowledge sharing among its businesses, GE was not a conglomerate. The stock market seemed to agree—for decades GE was able to defy the “conglomerate discount” that had been the trigger for many widely-diversified companies to unbundle. GE’s ability to flout conventional wisdom rested on its status as one of the world’s best-managed companies. In the first 10 years of Fortune’s ranking of the world’s most admired companies (1998–2007), GE topped the list seven times. By 2018, GE’s dismal financial performance (see Table 1), poor top-level decision-making, and dubious financial practices have reduced that reputation to tatters. During summer 2018, Flannery provided a partial answer to the question of whether the company should be broken up: GE would spin off its Transportation and Healthcare divisions and its oilfield services business, Baker Hughes, A GE Company (BHGE).

This case was prepared by Robert M. Grant. ©2019 Robert M. Grant. CASE 20 FIGURE 1 Restructuring General Electric   601 General Electric share price, March 1998 to March 2018 ($) 60 55 50 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 2000 2005 2010 2015 Sources: General Electric Shareowners Meeting, April 25, 2012 and Annual Letter to GE Shareholders: 2014. TABLE 1 General Electric: Selected financial data, 2010–2017 ($bn unless otherwise indicated) 2017a 2016a 2015a 2014b 2013b 2012b 2011b 2010b 122.1 123.7 117.4 148.6 146.0 146.7 147.3 150.2 (7.8) 8.8 (6.1) 15.3 15.2 14.6 14.2 11.6 R & D expenditure 4.8 4.8 4.2 4.2 4.6 4.5 5.4 4.9 Cash flow from operating activities 10.4 (0.2) 19.9 27.5 29.0 31.0 33.4 36.1 Cash from (used in) investing activities 2.3 49.2 59.5 (5.0) 29.1 11.3 19.9 32.4 (8.7%) 10.9% 1.6% 11.6% 12.2% 12.1% 11.9% 12.1% GE consolidated Revenues Net earnings a Return on average equity Stock price range ($) 17.25–31.84 27.10–33.00 19.37–31.49 27.94–23.69 28.09–20.68 23.18–18.02 21.65–14.02 19.70–13.75 Total assets 377.9 365.2 493.1 648.3 656.6 681.7 717.2 747.8

Long-term borrowings 108.6 105.1 144.7 200.4 221.7 236.1 243.5 293.3 313 295 333 305 307 305 301 287 Total employees (thousands) GE data (industrial businesses) Short-term borrowings 14.5 20.5 19.8 3.9 1.8 6.0 2.2 0.5 Long-term borrowings 67.0 58.8 83.3 12.5 11.5 11.4 9.4 9.6 Shareowners’ equity 64.3 75.8 98.3 128.2 130.6 123.0 116.4 118.9 Total capital invested 166.8 159.5 205.7 145.3 144.8 141.3 129.0 133.1 Return on average capital invested 2.7% 25.4% 16.9% 10.6% 11.3% 11.7% 11.6% 11.8% (Continues) 602 CASES TO ACCOMPANY CONTEMPORARY STRATEGY ANALYSIS TABLE 1 (Continued) 2017a Borrowings as % of capital invested 48.9% 2016a 2015a 2014b 2013b 2012b 2011b 2010b 49.7% 50.1% 11.2% 9.2% 12.4% 9.0% 7.6% GE capital data (financial services) Revenues 9.1 10.9 10.8 42.7 44.1 45.4 49.1 49.9 Net earnings (7.1) (2.2) (15.8) 7.2 6.2 6.2 16.5 2.2 Shareowner’s equity 13.5 24.7 46.2 87.5 82.7 81.9 77.1 69.0 Total borrowings 95.2 117.3 180.2 349.5 371.1 397.0 443.1 470.5 Ratio of debt to equity 7.06:1 4.75:1 3.90:1 3.99:1 4.49:1 4.85:18 5.75:1 6.82:1 Total assets 156.7 183.0 316.0 500.2 516.8 539.4 584.5 605.3 Notes: a As reported in 2017 financial statements. b As reported in 2014 financial statements.

Although Culp had endorsed this restructuring of GE’s business portfolio, the board’s decision to fire Flannery and appoint him CEO was a clear indication that these measures were not enough. Culp would need to answer the fundamental questions relating to the identity and strategic rationale of GE. If GE really did add value to its constituent businesses, why divest these major divisions? If the synergies among GE’s businesses really were illusory, then why not break up GE entirely? The History of GE GE was created in 1892 from the merger of Thomas Edison’s Electric Light Company with the Thomas Houston Company. Its business was based upon exploiting E ­ dison’s patents relating to electricity generation and distribution, light bulbs, and electric motors. Throughout the 20th century, GE was not only one of the world’s biggest industrial corporations but also “a model of management—a laboratory studied by business schools and raided by other companies seeking skilled executives.”2 Each of GE’s chairmen contributed to the development of GE’s management system, and these contributions diffused well beyond GE’s corporate boundaries.

Charles Coffin (1892–1922) married Edison’s industrial R&D laboratory to a business system capable of turning scientific discovery into marketable products. Ralph Cordiner (1950–63), assisted by Peter Drucker, established GE’s ­Crotonville management development institute and decentralized GE’s ­operational management to 120 departmental general managers. Fred Borsch (1963–72), devised GE’s corporate planning system based on strategic business units and guided by portfolio management techniques, which became a model for most diversified corporations. Reg Jones (1972–81) integrated strategic planning with financial control to create a comprehensive system for the corporate headquarters to manage its businesses. CASE 20 ●● ●● Restructuring General Electric   603 Jack Welch (1982–2001) had energized GE by stripping out layers of hierarchy, introducing a rigorous, and demanding performance management system based on stretch targets and powerful incentives for their achievement, and spearheaded a series of initiatives design…

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