MVIS the GE Way

It's a good idea to remember that Microvision is now run by a CEO who has a distinguished track record at America's most admired company. Take a look at this article and get an idea of how Microvision is going to be run going forward. Tokman and the new head of Sales and Marketing came to Microvision because they saw the company's truly extraordinary market opportunities. They are now transforming the company with a vision of becoming an indispensable source for illuminating information -- where Microvision's incredible technology is inside every display and imaging system going forward.

With GE leadership driving MVIS forward, I expect good things to be brought to life.

What Makes GE Great?

For the sixth time in the past decade, GE is America's most admired company. Its success does not come easy.

By Geoffrey Colvin

General Electric (Research ), is No. 1 on our list once again, the most admired company for the sixth time in the past decade. And if you're wondering whether we've got some pro-GE bias in our survey -- nope. GE has also ranked No. 1 in the Financial Times' "most respected" survey for seven of the past eight years, and it topped a recent Barron's ranking of most admired companies. The results speak for themselves. But why does the world love this company so much?

The answer lies in the fact that our survey (like the others) is a poll not of consumers but of businesspeople working in the same hard world as GE. They admire GE the way golf pros voted Tiger Woods Player of the Year in 2003, when he didn't win a major championship or top the money list: Through good years and bad, GE consistently does things the rest only wish they could.

For the past century or so, for example, GE has continually set the agenda of management ideas and practices that other companies will follow. Practically everyone in business realizes this. GE's record of being ahead of the game is remarkable. Under Charles Coffin, who led the firm from 1892 to 1912, GE set principles of organizational design that would guide large companies -- above all, the idea that the company's most important product was not light bulbs or transformers but managerial talent. In 1900 the company started the first corporate R&D lab, and in the 1930s it focused on cooperative labor relations, adopting pension plans and profit based bonuses to keep employees away from unions. In the 1950s it produced the famous "blue books" -- five volumes of ultra-detailed guidance for GE managers -- that shaped management everywhere. In the 1960s it led the move to strategic planning. In the 1980s and 1990s, it took concepts like leadership development, Work Out, and Six Sigma and made them the stuff of the global management culture. Most organizations will never establish any kind of intellectual leadership. Maintaining it for 100 years is a unique achievement.

But wait a minute. A lot of those ideas are dead. Isn't strategic planning now generally scorned, for example? Aren't the blue books and the whole centralizing ethos behind them long since abandoned? Yes -- and GE led the scorning and abandoning. Here is another GE trait that businesspeople especially admire: an ability to change direction unabashedly. "Most people inside GE learn from the past but have a healthy disrespect for history," says CEO Jeff Immelt. "They have an ability to live in the moment and not be burdened by the past, which is extremely important."

The result of GE's seamless, constant reinvention of itself is that while companies are constantly emulating GE, they're frequently a step or more behind, and they know it. That's another reason they consistently admire the company.

GE does one more big thing: develop people, evaluate them, and act on the results. The company takes a lot of heat for getting rid of the bottom 10% of its employees every year, but that's only the end point of a process of constant appraisal. The fired ones are not surprised when the ax comes down. And the result is an extraordinarily high performing organization. "The ability to demand high performance without being heartless," says Immelt, "has been a part of GE for a long time." Dan Mudd is the president and CEO of Fannie Mae; as president and CEO of GE Capital Japan from 1999 to mid-2005, he saw this dynamic from the inside. "GE, like anywhere else, has a little bit of politics, a little bit of personal stuff and all that," he says, "but compared with all the other organizations I know, it's minimized. It's upfront. You know what you have to do to succeed." Most companies, frankly, don't have the stomach to give frequent, rigorous evaluations -- and to fire those who need to be fired. They admire a company that does.

It's all about the long term. No other U.S. company has been as dominant for as long as GE. Of the 12 firms that Charles Dow put into his original Dow Jones industrial average in 1896, GE is the only one still in the index, and most of the others are dead. Survival is another achievement to admire.