|Lawrence A. Bossidy, Chairman and CEO
AlliedSignal Inc., Morristown, NJ
Bossidy became chairman of AlliedSignal in 1992. He had been named CEO the previous year. Before joining AlliedSignal, Bossidy had a long career with General Electric Company, much of it with General Electric Credit Corporation. His first job at GE in 1957 carried the title of trainee, finance management. Bossidy wound up serving as vice chairman and executive officer for seven years, from 1984 to 1991. He received a BA in Economics from Colgate University.
Engineering skills, constantly refreshed by training programs, will help today's companies stay competitive, says Lawrence Bossidy.
Design News:What future is there for companies such as AlliedSignal that sell products into mature markets?
Bossidy: We don't believe in mature markets. I'm convinced that every market has growth potential--either by expanding it geographically or by creating fresh demand through new products. At AlliedSignal, we've increased total sales by 20% since 1991. Going forward, we've set a goal of growing sales by 12% a year through the end of the decade.
Q: How important is the de-sign engineering function to AlliedSignal's profitability?
A: It's of critical importance. In order to offer our customers the highest quality products at the lowest possible costs, we have set a goal of becoming a Six Sigma manufacturer. To achieve this goal, we need to design our products at a Six Sigma level. We've launched an initiative called Technical Excellence in which we are training hundreds of our engineers in world-class design techniques. This will ensure that when our engineers hand off a product to our factories it can be manufactured at maximum speed and quality levels.
Q: How likely is it that an engineer can spend a full career as an engineer at AlliedSignal?
A: We do not expect our employees--engineers or others--to join AlliedSignal and hold the exact same job for the next 20 years. One of the benefits of being a company with 15 diverse businesses operating in 40 countries around the world is that we can offer our people exciting new opportunities without asking them to abandon their chosen fields. As long as an engineer is contributing to the success of the organization, it's in our best interest to have him or her remain in that role if they so choose.
Q: At AlliedSignal, do workers undertake training in work-ing hours, or during weekends and evenings?
A: If you relegate training to weekends and evenings, it sends a message to people that it's optional or not something that should be high on their list of priorities. Training isn't optional at AlliedSignal. Learning faster than the competition is one of the few sustainable advantages that a company can achieve these days. Learning must be part of the fabric of our everyday work lives, and that's when it takes place.
Q: How likely is it that investments by AlliedSignal in India and China will result in a net technology transfer to companies that will one day compete with AlliedSignal?
A: We're forming joint ventures with the best companies in those two countries. We're not handing them the keys to the store, but we also can't be paralyzed by fear about what might happen "someday." We can't go into these countries with 20-year-old technology and succeed. Will we have competitors in India and China in five years? We already do. We have to trust in our ability to stay competitive no matter who comes into our markets, just as we need to be able to compete with foreign companies in their own markets.
Q: How does an executive obtain top performance from employees? Some managers seem to regard threats as motivators. Do you?
A: You obtain top performance from employees by giving them the training they need to stay ahead and by motivating them with challenging, satisfying work and attractive compensation. You also must give people a candid assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, and you must work with them to map out a career development path that meets the company's needs and the individual's needs. Threats don't work. Threats stifle talent or drive it out of the organization. We want our leaders to be coaches, not bullies. If people are treated with dignity and feel that they can influence the company's destiny, they will work hard.
Q: What can a corporate leader do to change the culture of a company, especially a company that's in trouble?
A: You start by giving people a brutally honest assessment of the current situation. Too many leaders think that employees can't handle the truth. But how can you get people to change unless you've given them a compelling reason why? Once you tell people where the company is, you have to tell them where you want the company to go. And you have to measure your progress. People want to know how things are going and you have to tell them. And you have to tell them what they can do to help. Everyone has to get involved in change or it will wither on the vine.