I’m flying back from a mid-summer report out at Danaher’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The past three days were full of reflection and feedback, as well as some fun after-hour jaunts in the city. For some of the interns, it was a chance to hear more about the work that’s happening in other operating companies. For others, it was a valuable mid-course correction on project scope and impact. For all, it was an opportunity to meet senior executives including Danaher’s enigmatic CEO Larry Culp (HBS ’90), hear his story of becoming CEO at the age of 37 and growing the company from $1B to $19B over the course of 15 years, which is nothing short of legendary. He had cases written about him and the company! I’m a little embarrassed to say that meeting Larry in person had a bit of a celebrity-sighting effect on me.
Over the course of the trip, we all received a strong dose of DBS (Danaher Business System) and witnessed its culture in action at “ground zero”. There was much emphasis on being data-driven and self-driven. We spoke to past MBA interns who have joined the company full-time and have done exceptionally well. We learned about new HR initiatives aimed at improving career movement and development of MBA hires. We also talked about family-life balance and diversity. All of these discussions gave us meaningful glimpses into what a full-time gig at Danaher is like, and whether it would be a good fit for us.
For myself, I had just kicked off a round of customer surveys for the marketing plan that I’m working on at Beckman Coulter Genomics. On the first day of presentations, I was at the edge of my seat not because of the content, as engaging as it was, but because I couldn’t wait to start reviewing survey results. The direction of the marketing plan and my next steps all hinge on the feedback from customers. We needed high quality results and enough of them to make the data statistically significant. Back at the hotel that night, I was finally able to take a first look at the results. Some strong trends were already emerging. If they continued, I will be able to confirm and reject several hypotheses already. It also looked like I was off to a good start, with the number of results reaching almost two-thirds of the target already.
The rest of the days in DC went by like a blur. I’ll need a few more days to unpack the content, but one of Larry’s comments stuck with me clearly. He said “I was pretty much like this when I came out of HBS,” in reference to his leadership style. He then followed it up with a wink and said “that’s what HBS will do to ya.”
– Gong Ke Gouldstone, MBA 2015