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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Lloyd Trotter, a GE executive using best practices for productivity improvements
Article Type: Executive interview From: VINE: The journal of information and knowledge management systems, Volume 38, Issue 3
Lloyd Trotter, GE’s Vice Chairman, retired in February 2008 after 40 years of service. He leaves a legacy, as the company named a cost saving performance-measurement tool after him – the “Trotter Matrix”. Trotter joined GE in 1970 as a service engineer and rose through the ranks under the guidance of corporate leadership guru Jack Welch.
The “Trotter Matrix” is used by many GE units to identify and quickly translate best practices. The matrix identifies practices or criteria to be judged for performance and items/areas that benefit from the use of the practice. It is used as a tool to rate operational practices based on a scorecard. The scorecard provides a ranking of 0-5, which identifies the use of best practices in operations. The “Trotter Matrix” was a success in the manufacturing sites in which it was showcased by Jack Welch, and is now used in many GE operating units.
Mr Trotter accepted an invitation to share the evolution of this invaluable tool and below is the results of our June 6, 2008 interview.
What led to the creation of the “Trotter Matrix”?
During my tenure as Vice President of Manufacturing, I was responsible for 60 manufacturing sites. In my travels to the sites, I realized that almost all sites performed certain aspects of the supply chain very well. Given this discovery, the question of how to transfer these best practices amongst the 60 sites in real time surfaced. This thought led to the development of a process to transfer best practices with the initial step being to identify which site did which aspect of the supply chain well. The need to map the supply chain practices with the site evolved into a matrix that supported the rating of each site against the practices to be judged for performance – which marks the origin of the “Trotter Matrix”. Each site used the matrix to rate their site using a 1-5 ranking, where the rating of 5 was the “Best Class”, on how well they performed the practice.
How successful were the sites at rating themselves?
Most rated themselves 4 or 5 in all practices, which is not uncommon for most who rate themselves. However, in reality, I knew that the ratings were not accurate. I chose not to challenge the ratings, but to take a path of identifying a stellar site and request that the site present to management and the team why their site performed so well. When the other sites realized that they would have to follow the same path, they elected to redo the rating for their site. The second sets of ratings were realistic and opened the door to move to the next step in the process of transferring the best practices to all sites.
How were the best practices transferred amongst the sites?
After each site had successfully rated their site, they were provided a set of operating rules. Based on the site ratings, the rules led them to visit a site rated 5 and develop a plan to implement the best practice, accelerate their current progress to implement the best practice, or share their strengths and employ continuous improvements. Each site was held accountable for how well and fast they progressed to implement the best practice.
Were there any lessons learned in implementing the matrix?
I don’t know that I would do anything differently, not even the initial rating. There was some distrust and most wondered what the rating was going to be used for, but they rolled up their sleeves and started doing the work. Their work paid off, as there was a visible cost and productivity improvement in manufacturing at GE.
About the interviewee
Lloyd Trotter pioneered the “Trotter Matrix” at GE, which led to the successful identification and transfer of best practices to improve manufacturing operations. The matrix was subsequently leveraged to improve operations throughout GE operations. The “Trotter Matrix” is a validated process that many businesses could use to identify and leverage best practices. As stated by Jack Welch in his The GE Way Field Book – “the truly remarkable thing about the ‘Trotter Matrix’ was its universal application – The matrix is so straightforward and required no formal training, so any business could use it as a benchmarking tool with minimum fuss.” This is apparent as the “Trotter Matrix” has found its way into industry and is being used as the basis for research in academia and as a best practice measurement model in other organizations.