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Managers and leaders organizational structure at general electric

Ben Baker By Geoff Colvin February 24, 2006 On paper, the most admired company in America—and the world—may not look all that distinguished. Its stock has been practically inert for years. Allegations of managed quarterly earnings keep showing up in the press.

Yet this company, General Electric geis No. It last reached the top slot in 2002.

GE has also ranked No. 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. Through good years and bad, GE consistently does things the rest only wish they could. Charles Coffin, a former shoe industry executive, began the GE tradition of innovation in the practice of management.

That tradition is still alive and well. 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. 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 managers and leaders organizational structure at general electric 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.

What Makes GE Great?

Yes—and GE managers and leaders organizational structure at general electric the scorning and abandoning. Here is another GE trait that businesspeople especially admire: The fired ones are not surprised when the ax comes down. And the result is an extraordinarily high-performing organization. You know what you have to do to succeed.

They admire a company that does. Click chart to enlarge. 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. Could GE blow it? All it would take is a slight slackening of rigor, a tiny easing of standards, a growing taste for self-congratulation, and GE could go the way of Woolworth, Studebaker, and Bethlehem Steel. For more perspectives on GE, read our interviews with experts in The GE Mystiqueoriginally published as part of this story. This article is from the March 6, 2006 issue of Fortune.