High Performance at W L GORE
Service/Product: Gore-Tex manufacturer
Famous for: Inventing world-renowned high-performance fabrics for leisure, industrial, electronic and medical purposes The business strategy: Delivering continuous innovation by turning management principles on their head High performance learning points:
•Unique form of work organisation designed to support employee collaboration and creativity; •Leaders replace managers to deliver high levels of innovation; •Use of informal communication to achieve high levels of trust; •Use of ’sponsors' to facilitate continuous development and training and achieve a close link between personal development and organisational needs; •Remuneration system based on ‘peer’ evaluation;
•Uses strong organisational culture to underpin everything that the company does. “Delivering continuous innovation by turning management principles on their head” INDUSTRIAL CONTEXT AND BUSINESS STRATEGY
This is the story of the UK branch of a US multi-national company that for the last three decades has achieved continuous innovation in its products. Starting with its unique textile, Gore-Tex, for which it is best known, the company has created new fluoropolymer products by sustained creative research and development and through getting close to their customers and exploring new ways of satisfying their needs. They have developed new products for next-generation electronics, for medical implants as well as high-performance fabrics, “we provide the marketplace with differentiated products that add value to the customer’s business and make a profit”, Ann Gillies, the Human Resource Manager at Gore commented. So confident are they of their ability to sustain innovation that they have a policy of moving out of product areas once their patents expire and other companies start to compete on the basis of price, to devote their creative energies to developing new products. In this organisation, change is the only constant. Their success is measured not just by the ability of the company to make a profit but also by the number of patents they register. TURNING MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES ON THEIR HEAD
All this and more has been achieved through the inversion of traditional management principles. This has been done so thoroughly that at Gore there are no managers, no job descriptions, no bosses to tell you what to do, just associates and leaders. Whereas in a conventional company an employee does what he or she is told to do, at Gore their associates do what is needed to make the whole organisation successful. In this organisation no one can release you to work on a project because there is no fixed job to be released from. At Gore you are not paid to do a job. You are rewarded for the contribution. Your colleagues see you making the success of the business. At Gore, you are not allocated to a position of authority over others. You achieve leadership by convincing others of the quality of your ideas and your contribution to the goals of the business. This is how it is possible that 50% of employees, when asked in an independent survey, described themselves as leaders. How has this been achieved? How is it possible that half of all employees see themselves as leaders? In part it is through applying the lessons learnt by the founder Bill Gore, from his experience at DuPont. He identified four guiding principles for work organisation in the company: •Fairness to each other;
•Freedom to encourage people to grow in knowledge and responsibility; •The ability to make commitments and keep them; and
•Consultations with others in the company before undertaking actions that would affect the reputation of the company.
These principles are followed in all the local plants and operations. BUILDING TRUST AND WORKING THROUGH TEAMS
In the UK, these principles provide the basis for building extremely high levels of trust within the company between all the...