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Letter to Share Owners
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The initiatives are playing a critical role in changing GE, but the most significant change in GE has been its transformation into a Learning Company. Our true "core competency" today is not manufacturing or services, but the global recruiting and nurturing of the world's best people and the cultivation in them of an insatiable desire to learn, to stretch and to do things better every day. By finding, challenging and rewarding these people, by freeing them from bureaucracy, by giving them all the resources they need—and by simply getting out of their way—we have seen them make us better and better every year.

We have a Company more agile than others a fraction of our size, a high-spirited company where people are free to dream and encouraged to act and to take risks. In a culture where people act this way, every day, "big" will never mean slow.

This is all about people—"soft stuff." But values and behaviors are what produce those performance numbers, and they are the bedrock upon which we will build our future.

The rest of our letter will describe these abiding values and beliefs because they are at the heart and soul of everything we do, what we stand for, what we stand on and, most important, where we are going.

Integrity

It's the first and most important of our values. Integrity means always abiding by the law, both the letter and the spirit. But it's not just about laws; it is at the core of every relationship we have.

GE...a learning Company. Our true "core competency" today is not manufacturing or services, but the global recruiting and nurturing of the world's best people and the cultivation in them of an insatiable desire to learn, to stretch and to do things better every day.

Inside the Company, integrity establishes the trust that is so critical to the human relationships that make our values work. With that trust, employees can take risks and believe us when we say a "miss" doesn't mean career damage.

With trust, employees can set stretch performance goals and can believe us when we promise that falling short is not a punishable offense. Integrity and trust are at the heart of the informality we cherish. There are no witnesses needed to conversations, nor the need to "put it in writing." None of that—our word is enough.

In our external dealings, with our unions and governments, we are free to represent our positions vigorously, in a constructive fashion, to agree or disagree on the issues, knowing that our integrity itself is never an issue.

A period of transition is a period of change, and some of our values will be modified to adapt to what the future brings. One will not: our commitment to integrity, which, beyond doing everything right, means always doing the right thing.

Relishing Change

We've long believed that when the rate of change inside an institution becomes slower than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight. The only question is when.

Learning to love change is an unnatural act in any century-old institution, but today we have a Company that does just that: sees change always as a source of excitement, always as opportunity, rather than as threat or crisis. We're no better prophets than anyone else, and we have difficulty predicting the exact course of change. But we don't have to predict it. What we have to do is simply jump all over it! Our moves in Europe, Mexico, Japan and the rest of Asia during the '90s were risky, richly-rewarded big swings at fast-breaking change, as was our leap into digitization, and more recently our decision to acquire Honeywell. We strive every day to always have everyone in the organization see change as a thrilling, energizing phenomenon, relished by all, because it is the oxygen of our growth.

The Customer

Bureaucracies love to focus inward. It's not that they dislike customers; they just don't find them as interesting as themselves. Today we have a Company doing its very best to fix its face on customers by focusing Six Sigma on their needs.

Key to this focus is a concept called "span," which is a measurement of operational reliability for meeting a customer request. It is the time window around the Customer Requested Delivery Date in which delivery will happen. High span shows poor capability to hit a specific date; low span reflects great capability; and zero span is always the objective.

With span, the measurement is based on the day the customer wants the product. When the order is taken, that date becomes known to everyone, from the first person in the process receiving the castings, circuit boards or any other components from the supplier, all the way through to the service reps who stand next to the customer as the product is started up for the first time. Every single delivery to every single customer is measured and in the line of sight of everyone; and everyone in the process knows he or she is affecting the business-wide measurement of span with every action taken.

The object is to squeeze the two sides of the delivery span, days early and days late, ever closer to the center: the exact day the customer desired. Plastics has reduced its span from 50 days to 5; Aircraft Engines from 80 days to 5; Mortgage Insurance took it from 54 days to 1.

GE completed more than 2000 Six Sigma projects "at the customer, for the customer," last year. Here we took GE resources and applied them to our customers' biggest needs, using Six Sigma as a foundation. The focus has been totally inside our customer operations. The wins have been significant: improving locomotive reliability, reducing medical CT scan wait times and improving airline operations. It's not that we know all the answers but we're totally committed to finding them; and committed to externalizing all of our initiatives for the benefit of the customer. Over the long term, we believe this will differentiate GE in the eyes of the customer.

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