Due: June 21, 2014
Summary: When Bill Gore left Dupont in 1958 and founded W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. in the basement of his home, he had a theory that he could build an organization that was free from bureaucracy much like the small task forces he was assigned to within Dupont. However, his dream to create an innovative enterprise had several questions:
Could he build a company with no hierarchy where everyone was free to talk with everyone else?
Could he build a company with no bosses or titles?
Could the company be successful by letting people choose what they wanted to work on instead of being assigned tasks?
Could he create a company with no core business, where people would put as much energy into finding the next big thing as they did into milking the last big thing?
Could he do all of this while delivering consistent growth and profitability?
Gore built his company around PTFE (Teflon) which was previously discovered by a chemist at DuPont. Their initial product, Multi-Tet, was insulted wire and cable but their big breakthrough came in 1969 when Bill’s son Bob discovered ePTFE which was the first step toward Gore-Tex, the product the made the Company famous.
In order to achieve his vision, Gore built a company very different from the tradition way including incorporating some of the following practices:
Lattice organization with no hierarchy
Employees referred to as associates
Associates committed to tasks they wanted to work on instead of being assigned
Up to 10% free time for associates to pursue their own ideas
No fear of failure
Provided four guiding principles (Freedom, Fairness, Commitment and Waterline) instead of manuals and rules.to help associates with their decisions and behaviors
Naturally developed Leaders
As a result, W.L. Gore & associates was able to grow into a $3 billion company with over 10,000 associates, 45 locations worldwide and manufacturing plants in the U.S., Germany, Japan and Scotland.
Q1 Is W. L. Gore a successful enterprise? If so, why has it been so successful? What are some of the building blocks of its success?
A1 Yes, W.L. Gore is a successful enterprise because they have been able to continually innovate due to the established culture of the Company. Gore has developed over a thousand market leading products in various industries. As a result, they have posted a profit every year they have been in business and have grown to over $3 billion in revenue. When Bill Gore left DuPont and founded W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. in 1958, his mission statement put the culture of the firm ahead of its employees and its products: Nurture a vibrant Culture that engages talented Associates who deliver innovative Products that create extraordinary value for all of our stakeholders. His philosophy of management was deeply inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and McGregor’s “The Human Side of Enterprise”. As a result, Gore setup the company under the notion that the entire company can be designed to be bureaucracy-free. Gore used a lattice organization that involved direct transactions, self-commitment, natural leadership, and lacks assigned or assumed authority. Each person within the organization could interact with every other person in the organization directly.
In place of policy manuals and bureaucratic rules, Gore also developed four guiding principles to help associates with their decisions and behavior. The four guiding principles are:
Fairness to each other and everyone with whom we come in contact
Freedom to encourage, help, and allow other associates to grow in knowledge, skill, and scope of responsibility
The ability to make one’s own commitments and keep them
Consultation with other associates before undertaking actions that could impact the reputation of the company - Waterline (Our Culture)
By having these principles in place, the decisions are put into the hands of the Associates.
Gore also has some key