Filling Jeff Immelt’s shoes is no easier than when Immelt had to fill Jack Welch’s. But John Flannery is already making his own mark in GE history. And right now he is making his mark in digital.
“We have fully embraced the digital industrial transformation, and we believe in its potential to change the world,” TheStreet reported. “For our customers, digital is bringing new levels of innovation and productivity, and they are seeing real, tangible outcomes.”
In fact, Flannery recently appointed two new digital officers to the company: A new chief technology officer and a new cybersecurity officer, both promoted internally.
Flannery took over as CEO at General Electric (GE) on Aug. 1, replacing Immelt, whose departure was announced in June. Immelt will remain as chairman until the end of the year, when Flannery will assume that role, as well.
Flannery’s promotion was reportedly part of a clear succession plan, and he is certainly a familiar face at GE. He started at GE Capital in 1987, right out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and has been with GE ever since. His career has taken him through finance, mergers and acquisitions, and healthcare at the company, as well as leadership roles in the US, Latin America and Asia. Prior to taking over as CEO, he was president and CEO of the $18.3 billion GE Health Care business.
“CEO transitions are inherently risky endeavors, but the succession process at GE appears to have systematically included the best practices available to maximize the odds of John Flannery’s success as the next CEO,” says Deborah Rubin, senior partner and co-head of Board & CEO Services at RHR International.
Jeffrey Immelt did a lot to transform GE during his 16 years at the helm, but Flannery still faces challenges in his new job. In particular, the company’s stock performance has lagged behind the indexes and GE’s competitors. Many observers are looking to Flannery to improve that situation—and investors who have been waiting for a change may not be especially patient.
At the same time, Flannery brings some important strengths to the table. He is certainly familiar with GE. He has international experience and turnaround experience. And at GE Healthcare, he drove important and innovative digital technology initiatives—an area that is seen as a critical part of GE’s future success.
John Flannery is No. 14 on CEO1000 Tracker, Chief Executive and RHR International’s list of CEOs of top 1,000 public/private companies.