Listening to Jack: GE's change conversations with shareholders

Ian Palmer (School of Management, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)
Adelaide Wilcox King (McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA)
Dianne Kelleher (Health Services Planning Unit, NSH Executive Unit, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, Australia)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Publication date: 1 December 2004


How organizations communicate with shareholders during times of great uncertainty, such as during transformational change, is a relatively neglected area within the change management literature. We use the concept of “change conversation” and speech act theory to analyze GE's letters to shareholders 1980‐1999. We found five consistent change conversations through which GE's management sought to reassure shareholders and reduce their uncertainty around the expected outcomes of GE's transformational changes: warnings; actions; explanations; achievements, and predictions. These were underpinned by three types of speech acts: assertives, expressives, and commissives. We suggest that internally and externally oriented change conversations differ, the former being best characterized as operational change conversations and the latter as supportive change conversations. We suggest that successful change managers engage in both types of change conversations.



Palmer, I., Wilcox King, A. and Kelleher, D. (2004), "Listening to Jack: GE's change conversations with shareholders", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 17 No. 6, pp. 593-614.

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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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