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Publisher's Summary

A Wall Street Journal Best Seller

How could General Electric - perhaps America’s most iconic corporation - suffer such a swift and sudden fall from grace?

This is the definitive history of General Electric’s epic decline, as told by the two Wall Street Journal reporters who covered its fall.

Since its founding in 1892, GE has been more than just a corporation. For generations, it was job security, a solidly safe investment, and an elite business education for top managers.

GE electrified America, powering everything from lightbulbs to turbines, and became fully integrated into the American societal mindset as few companies ever had. And after two decades of leadership under legendary CEO Jack Welch, GE entered the 21st century as America’s most valuable corporation. Yet, fewer than two decades later, the GE of old was gone.

Lights Out examines how Welch’s handpicked successor, Jeff Immelt, tried to fix flaws in Welch’s profit machine, while stumbling headlong into mistakes of his own. In the end, GE’s traditional win-at-all-costs driven culture seemed to lose its direction, which ultimately caused the company’s decline on both a personal and organizational scale. Lights Out details how one of America’s all-time great companies has been reduced to a cautionary tale for our times.

©2020 Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers

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Comprehensive “Summary” of What Happened

As a former manager at GE, I remember wondering why Jeff Immelt remained at the helm of GE so long when it was obvious to almost everyone, both inside and outside the company, that he wasn’t getting the results needed. When goals were set impossibly high and poor leaders either somehow made their plans or were moved over to other businesses rather than moved out, while many competent and hard working underlings took the fall for missing ridiculous goals. By 2012 when I left, we had been losing some of our best talent to other companies for the reasons already mentioned above, that when the layoffs started happening in earnest, we were cutting into some of our best ranks to get the numbers down. This book appears to be very well researched and substantiated. It makes me angry to realize that, in an organization that preached “The Spirit & The Letter” as the Integrity basis of all business practices, and a company who punished employees for infractions at the lower levels, was actually, at some of the highest levels of the organization,!ignoring the Spirit and bending the Letter of regulations and financial practices to basically “cook the books” for years. GE’s hard-working employees and shareholders deserved better. I hope this book helps to drive more oversight of major publicly traded companies and governance over the size and complexity of businesses as well as ensuring the Boards of Directors are not simply “yes men” to the CEO and Chairman of the Board.

10 people found this helpful

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A very long “Dateline-type” story

Interesting history of the fall of GE. It is a bit drawn out and repetitive but points out the culture and leadership pitfalls that could happen to any company.

3 people found this helpful

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Required Reading for Leadership Training

Along with "The Smartest Guys in the Room" by Beth McLean about Enron, this book is essential reading for any aspiring leader.

There are ample books about exemplary organizations that guide leaders in what to strive for, but I find that I can learn more from the failures. This book certainly achieves that. Great leadership lessons during the period when GE experienced it's armor cracking while hubris, incompetence, excess risk taking, and fecklessness embedded the culture of the company's leadership.

3 people found this helpful

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Ecoimplosion

Great Summary of how to destroy a once great company. An indictment of US business. Yet again, a CEO and board lie, cheat, and steal only to lose billions of dollars. It's not incompetence, it's criminal. If anything this book provides an excuse for the behavior. Where are the stories of the retirees, employees, investors who lost BILLIONS on Jeff's merry band of business bandits? The truly scary thing is that most of these "executives" still manage other peoples money. That can't be good.

2 people found this helpful

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Interesting stories but...

This book has interesting stories about how GE lost its way. But they are not well tied together and their is no coherent summy.

1 person found this helpful

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Gripping but drags on

Fascinating story but often repeats itself. I learned a lot. A good story about leadership.

1 person found this helpful

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Lacks concision and a narrative throughline

Some of the anecdotes about GE's history from Jack Welch to John Flannery's tenure running General Electric were interesting, but they really felt jumbled and disconnected. It presents Jeff Immelt as the reason behind the downturn, but it doesn't provide a narrative on how decisions compounded to cause problems, instead presenting disjointed anecdotes where sometimes Immelt comes across as a success and the hero of the story. Desperately needed an editor to make these vignettes from GE's history into an actual story.

The narrator is fine, not terrible but not phenomenal either.

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Loved it!! Disappointed in GE though

Great story, It would be better if it was fictional and I was not one of the millions of shareholders the GE took for a ride. The author provided great in-depth story telling and was very informative. The narration was good. The whole story made me angry at CEO/Executive greed on the backs of shareholders. Anyways worth a listen for anyone that likes true stories about business.

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imagination, inspiration and stories aren't enough

super candide tale of a super power than become a non significant company. Built to last, but didn't adapt in time to stop the the football coach style management

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Enjoyed the Story-telling

An interesting telling of the impact of a lack corporate governance for a mythic company