AN old axiom at General Electric Co. is that "no operation should be larger than a man can get his arms around." There are few armfuls quite so huge or potentially so bountiful as G.E.'s. Its 375,000 employees turn out some 3,000 product lines, including jet engines, nuclear power plants and electric toothbrushes. Now the company has designed an unusual management system to better take hold of some costly problems.

The new system does away with the post of president and divides responsibility largely among three vice chairmen, who report only to Chairman Fred...

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