Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Good Ideas From Management Gurus

Innovative Management
by Ken Blanchard

(If Ken Blanchard had to choose just one thing to teach for the rest of his life, he has no doubt that "catching people doing things right" would be his lasting message.)



If you really want to know what's going on in your organization, listen to the conversations going on.

I recently visited W.L. Gore and Associates Inc. in Newark, Delaware. Gore has been using the principles of empowerment and participatory management since it was founded more than 30 years ago. Unlike other companies that have latched onto these concepts only recently, Gore has been out front with the kind of management I have advocated for years.

One of the things I loved about talking with the people at Gore was their use of language. Their antennae would go up immediately whenever I used any traditional terms such as boss, supervision, promotion and responsibility. The founder's philosophy is so ingrained in employees' vocabulary that it has continued going even though he passed away a decade ago.

I have been frustrated over the years because companies have used terms like head of the department, superior/subordinate supervision and hired hands. The use of words is so important.

EST founder Werner Erhard often said that if you want to find out what's really happening in your organization, you should listen to the kinds of conversations that are going on. Johnsonville Foods CEO Ralph Stayer took the point even further when he said, "All you have is conversations."

If you want to change your organization, you need to try to facilitate changing the kinds of conversations people are having. What people talk about and the way they talk is important.

Another thing that impressed me was no one at Gore has a title-everyone is called an associate. There are no bosses-only sponsors. Every associate has at least one sponsor. There are three kinds of sponsors:

A starting sponsor helps a new associate get started on the job. Also, this sponsor helps a present associate get started on the job.

An advocate sponsor sees to it that the associate being sponsored gets credit and recognition for accomplishments and contributions.

A compensation sponsor sees to it that the associate being sponsored is fairly paid for contributions to the success of the enterprise.

A sponsor is a friend and associate. A single sponsor can perform any one or all three kinds of sponsorships. All the supportive aspects of the friendship are also present. Often two associates sponsor each other as advocates.

Leaders are not assigned; they emerge. If nobody wants to follow you, you are not a leader. They do not talk about job descriptions; they talk about commitments. If you ask someone to help you on a project and they agree, that is a commitment. People keep lists of their commitments, and they are expected to keep those commitments.

They don't talk about activities; they talk about what you have accomplished. Everyone's contributions are evaluated twice a year by peer panels (internal customers) who experience your work.

They don't talk about promotions; they talk about opportunities. If someone takes on a new responsibility, that is a new opportunity. They don't get an immediate pay raise until they show that they can make a contribution with that opportunity.

All associates are asked to follow four guiding principles:
Try to be fair.
Use your freedom to grow.
Make your own commitments and keep them.
Consult with other associates prior to any action that may adversely
affect the company's reputation or financial stability.

The four principles are referred to as fairness, freedom, commitment and waterline. The waterline terminology is drawn from ship analogy.

If someone pokes a hole in a boat above the waterline, the boat will be in relatively little real danger. If someone, however, pokes a hole below the waterline, the boat is in immediate danger of sinking. In other words, associates can (and are encouraged to) make decisions on their own as long as the downside risk does not threaten the organization's survival.

It was fascinating visiting W.L. Gore and thinking about some of the things that many organizations are trying to accomplish today. Because many successful organizations are doing innovative things, we do not need to reinvent successful innovations, as much as we simply need to learn from those that have worked for others.