I just finished “Winning” by Jack Welch. This is not a book I would have bought for myself - I’m not sure why, but all the famous CEO books just seem a bit goofy to me. My mom got it for me for my birthday and, not wanting to disappoint her when she asks me what I thought about it, I read what I could on the plane over the last couple of weeks (I’ve noticed that when traveling with a 18-month old that I don’t get near as much read). I am surprised to say that I love the book!

Welch is worshipped as perhaps the greatest CEO in history and even Warren Buffet lauds on the cover of the book that “no other management book will ever be needed” (which is ironic since Welch’s advice in the book is to read as many business books and articles as you possibly can, which leads one to question whether Buffet actually read this book - probably not). While I believe that CEO worship is ridiculous and that the vast majority of firm performance is unrelated to who sits in the corner office, I can see from the book why Welch was effective. He gives a bunch of practical advice presented (no doubt with tons of credit to his new wife Suzy Welch) in a very easy and entertaining-to-read fashion.

I especially like the defense of differentiation (i.e. judging and moving talent - including moving it out of the organization - based on performance evaluation). His discussion of people management (his advice to elevate HR to a position of power and primacy in the organization and to face straight into charged relationships with unions, stars, sliders and disrupters) is also excellent. I also really enjoyed his discussion of the dysfunctional budget process in most organizations and his advice on strategy development (including his five slide process).

This book was not at all what I expected. There are certainly a number of platitudes and some almost caricature “tough-talk” (and if I never read the word layup again it will be too soon) that were distracting. He really glossed over six-sigma when he got to it, even though it is trumpeted throughout the book. But overall I found it surprisingly good. Clearly written, practical business advice that can be implemented. I liked it.