Management, Fads, and Gimmicks

The business world has always fascinated me, which is why my degrees are in business. One part that I always enjoyed was the amazing management tool du jour. There was quality management, then quality circles, then—actually, there have been so many that I’m not sure which came next.

Laurence J. Peters gave us the Peter Principle, which says that a person with ability will be promoted until they no longer could succeed; it was often paraphrased as the cream rises until it sours. There was the Sixty Second Manager, followed by The 59 Second Employee

Then came the Sine Qua Non; the golden fleece; the masterpiece—nay, the perfection—of management, Six Sigma. General Electric championed it (even though an engineer at Motorola created it). If GE says so, it has to be good—right?

There are different degrees of six sigma, identified as “belts” as seen in Judo or Karate. Six sigma was gospel; in fact it was better that gospel—after all it was from GE—right?

After all the hoopla, most of it has been relegated to the island of last years’ business models.

GE suffered through, and survived, Jack Welsh—known as  Neutron Jack. This was in honor of neutron bombs, which are designed to kill all the people, but leave the buildings standing. GE Capital, which had been profitable AND supported GE’s other product lines was mostly sold off. Much of the medical manufacturing was shipped off to China. Appliances carrying the GE brand are often, if not mostly, manufactured by some other company who pays GE to use its trademark.*

GE recently announced that it was spinning off its entire health care division. It will be interesting to see if this is to make it easier to sell off. Jack Walsh would approve, but I don’t know how the decision would score in six sigma.

*I had a GE portable television about 10 years ago, which needed new batteries. I contacted GE and at first they said that they didn’t know who made it. In any case, I never found a compatible battery, and hooking a lithium ion battery to a charger that wasn’t designed for it can be quite messy with the explosion and all.

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