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GE: Larry Culp on Lean Manufacturing, Culture and COVID

Episode 16 / January 2021

Southeastern’s Vice-Chairman Staley Cates interviews Larry Culp, Chairman and CEO of General Electric.

They discuss how Lean manufacturing is much more than a process and how it can define a culture that is committed to continual improvement. Larry begins with an introduction to “Lean” and what it means to him [3:37 – 5:42]. They discuss whether Lean is a culture or a process [5:43 – 8:34] and what potential problems the approach seeks to address [8:35 – 10:50]. Larry next describes how he first learned about Lean and what made him embrace it as the optimal way to run a business and shape a culture [10:51 –  13:01]. Next, Larry discusses what made him take the role of CEO at GE in the first place and how he is leading GE to embrace Lean, using his experience from Danaher [13:02 – 16:54].  He then discusses the importance of team versus individual thinking in the context of Lean [16:55 – 19:34] and how to bring people on board with the approach [19:35 – 23:06]. Next, Larry discusses the core tenet of waste reduction in more detail [23:07 – 25:26], as well as challenges and opportunities within the supply chain [25:27 – 27:25].

Larry next describes incorporating the approach at GE in more detail. He answers why such a common sense approach is not more universally used [33:22 – 34:50] and discusses other leaders that he respects in terms of Lean implementation [34:51 – 36:38]. He rounds out the Lean tutorial with guidance on what metrics we as analysts can use to measure progress and success from the outside [36:39 – 38:14].

Next, they shift to cover GE more broadly, with Larry discussing GE’s culture and changes he has implemented since taking on his CEO role [38:15 – 40:12] as well as his goals for the next 3-5 years [40:13 – 41:13]. Larry then addresses how he has managed the business through a challenging COVID environment [41:14 – 43:37], discusses GE’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030 [43:38 – 45:07] and gives an update on the work to reduce GE Capital [45:08 – 47:14]. Finally, Larry shares his outlook for GE as a business and what makes him most excited as a (significant!) owner of the stock [47:15 – 48:17].