There’s a revolution under way behind the shiny new walls of the General Electric North American Global Operations Center at the Banks. The industrial conglomerate is attempting to take billions of dollars in costs from traditional back office functions, such as human resources, IT and legal services, by re-envisioning how those jobs are done.

At the center of the revolt is General Manager Joe Allen, a 27-year GE employee and a Washington D.C. native. He was the first employee of the new center in 2014, one of four GE has created around the world. He’s overseen the recruitment and hiring of the 1,000 who now work there and another 800 to be hired by the end of 2017.

What is the global operations center?

Think about all the businesses GE has. There’s an opportunity for what we call the enabling functions, the new word for the old back office functions, to be in a sort of shared services or center of excellence. We do everything other than engineering and manufacturing and support between $50 billion and $70 billion in business revenues. GE is looking at, “How do we continue to challenge the enabling functions across the globe?” Our goal in global ops is to help take out $1.2 billion in costs by the end of 2017.

You talk about the global operations center being “transformational.”

What we’re doing here is trying to blow away the old status quo. Trying to delayer and blow away the hierarchy. We don’t have offices and we don’t have a formal dress code. We’re trying to create a one-team atmosphere vs. having a lot of layers and structure around the hierarchy. Transformation starts with the building with zero offices and an abundance of collaborative space where we get these enabling functions to break out of their silos and work together.

How important is being downtown to this idea?

The big thing we were looking for was the opportunity to have a center that would attract folks who want to challenge the status quo. We wanted aplace that was accessible whether it was public transportation or by a highway. Another attraction is a place where people can come and be part of the community and feel great about where they work. We’re in a place where people can walk out the door and do things and have that whole live, work, play kind of environment they’re creating at the Banks.

What’s the biggest challenge you face?

I wake up every morning excited about trying to carry out the vision we’ve created. You’re trying to challenge the way things are done and have people think much broader about the way things should be done. That’s a big challenge. Every week when new folks start we have an orientation. I tell them what my vision is and challenge them: Don’t check your experience at the door because that’s why you’re here, and don’t assume what we do is the correct or best way. We want to come up with the best solutions. We want diverse ideas to come up with those new solutions for the diverse world we serve.



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