If Immelt is going to return G.E. to a culture of candor, he’s got a blueprint–and big shoes to fill

In his annual letter, G.E. CEO Jeffrey Immelt says, “Each of our businesses has set up a process to identify the ‘naysayers’ in each of our industries to make sure their voices are heard inside G.E. From top to bottom and across G.E., we must and will listen more critically and respectfully to each other.”

The company’s going to stop bullshitting itself, in other words—in longtime G.E. CEO Jack Welch’s words, to be precise.

According to Jacked Up, the book by Welch’s speechwriter Bill Lane, Welch spent two decades trying to keep G.E. managers from telling each other happy lies—and hearing happy lies from others.

Lane writes:

While he valued honesty, his intolerance for bullshit was legendary—and intensified as his career drew on. At one big meeting with a bunch of investment bankers, Jack listened as they pitched a megadeal that amounted to a hostile takeover of a financial services firm.

Jack stopped the presentation.

“Stop the bullshit,” he said. “I’m 65 years old, and I’ve seen everything. I’ve had bullshit coming at me for years, and I know it when I see it coming my way. This is bullshit. Stop it.”

He was laughing as he said it, but the message wasn’t funny.

The bullshit stopped and candor reigned for the duration.

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