Close this search box.
Close this search box.

GE’s Appointment of Beth Comstock as Vice Chair Has Deep Meaning

It's the last gasp of summer and the world will probably not notice a small story in today's Wall Street Journal. But it might be quite important.

Beth Comstock has been named vice chairman of General Electric for the express purpose of overseeing the company’s efforts to unleash the power of the Internet and data analytics to improve the way it makes things.

I can see three deep interpretations of this:

  • If GE, a bastion of manufacturing, is elevating someone to the vice chairman’s level to oversee the push to transform the way it makes things, that’s a bold statement. It means that every other manufacturing company has to consider how it is structured and whether it has the right people in the right places to make sure it captures the latest advancements in manufacturing know-how. GE is calling this the “industrial Internet” era.
  • Secondly, Comstock worked her way up the ladder through public relations and marketing, which is highly unusual in the Fortune 100. But she has displayed real imagination and originality. She came up with the notion of “ecoimagination” to describe how GE was trying to make things to improve the environment. She created a partnership with BuzzFeed, of all news organizations to choose. Her elevation may mean that the nuts-and-bolts operations guys or the number-crunching accountants may not possess the right skills to operate at the top level of such a major corporation.
  • Lastly, obviously, Comstock is a woman who now joins a boys’ club dominated by CEO Jeff Immelt. Three other vice chairmen also are men. It’s suddenly not crazy to suggest that Comstock could one day become CEO. What a red letter day that would be! GE’s corporate culture has been incredibly macho, thanks in part to the tender ministrations of Jack Welch. What if Jeff Immelt thinks that a different type of culture needs to be created at the top? That would set off more shockwaves in corporate America.

So dear readers, if you’re still on the beach, big things are happening in small articles.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.