December 22, 2009

Creating a culture of innovation. 20 lessons from W. L. Gore & Associates

Listening to this 50 minute talk by Ms. Terri Kelly, CEO of W. L. Gore & Associates - a talk that I strongly encourage you to listen to - I wrote down these 20 things that I learned:

# 1: W. L. Gore & Associates has about 8,500 associates. Every person is a company owner.
# 2: People, who work for W. L. Gore & Associates, don’t talk about “expenses”. They talk about “investments”.
# 3: Compensation is determined by peer review. Everyone in a team ranks everyone.
# 4: W. L. Gore & Associates wants small plants and will split up plants that have more than 200-250 associates. Consequently, the company has hundreds of different facilities. This is a catalyst for growth, because it creates a large amount of ownership.
# 5: The company takes a very decentralized approach to organizing things and believes in the power of small teams.
# 6: Mr. Bill Gore hated policy manuals and bureaucratic ways of telling the organization what to do.
# 7: A person is only a leader, if someone wants to follow him/her. For example, Ms. Terri Kelly was nominated by people, who work for the company, to be the CEO.
# 8: There are very few titles. However, in some global markets and cultures such as in Korea, titles are important than in other markets – meaning that many associates in Korea have titles.
# 9: When leaders want something to be done, they have to explain why. This has a positive effect on results, because implementation goes much smoother – thereby saving time and costs.
# 10: Leaders need to create an environment of trust.
# 11: Associates are encouraged to work on things they are passionate about.
# 12: There’s a fundamental belief in individuals. People trust and respect each other.
# 13: Diversity of thought and perspective is encouraged.
# 14: Associates and teams are empowered to make decisions.
# 15: People are free to try things out – and also to kill things quickly.
# 16: People are not punished for failing.
# 17: A key question is whether people like to be part of something greater than their individual contribution.
# 18: New people, who start working for the company, typically do not start in a leadership role. The preferred route is to bring someone in to maybe a strategic marketing role or a technical role or a functional leadership role, where he/she can really display his/her technical skills, functional skills. Then they get the chance to influence the followership naturally.
# 19: Bill Gore wanted to keep things simple and had 4 principles: Freedom, fairness, commitment, and waterline.
# 20: If you focus on the values, it’s probably the biggest contribution you can make as leaders to truly get the full impact of the organization.

I came across this talk via a Twitter update by Marc Sniukas that included this posting.



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