Gore and Associates Team Research Analysis (Intro) – Tomika 2 Pages Prior to exploring Gore’s model, one should note that W. L. Gore & Associates is a US-based manufacturer that specializes in making products that utilize advanced materials. The company was founded in 1958 by Bill Gore and is best known for its Gore-Tex Fabrics. Presently, the company boasts over 10000 employees and $3 billion in revenue. The company’s quick growth and market success shows that Gore’s model is certainly something that may be interesting to other corporations. First, W. L. Gore & Associates consistently earns top scores by the Great Places to Work Institute, meaning that the employees at W. L. Gore & Associates are pleased with the company and give it their votes, loyalty and commitment. One of the hallmarks of Gore’s model is the democratic decision making, where the company’s associates have freedom to choose the work they do and make commitments to their colleagues regarding what they will accomplish. The whole model fosters challenge-specific teams, where the employees are free to join or leave their team and re-team with another challenge-specific team. W. L. Gore & Associates does not have any formal managers, yet has democratically-elected leaders, who emerge organically depending on the specific project needs and the qualities that each of the employees possess.
There are no “bosses” but there are “sponsors” who assist the junior associates to work more effectively by selecting a team based on their abilities and skills Not only are the employees free to work on the projects that interest them and be leaders of such projects, W. L. Gore & Associates also permits the so-called “dabble time”, or 10% of the employee’s time to be spent on new things, ideas, projects or initiatives. The company prides itself on being one of the only corporations to allow their employees to have time to work on projects that are personally enriching, while also investing in these ideas under the “rapid experimentation” concept as a part of the W. L. Gore & Associates model. This rapid experimentation concept is responsible for the creation of “Ride-On bike cables” and Elixir guitar strings, which captured 35% of the market in 2004. As added compensation, the employees are given stock/shares, which are thought to provide the company with assurance that the staff will give their best efforts to achieve great results. W. L. Gore & Associates’ model permits the employees to choose their work, while the company supports rapid experimentation by linking management incentives towards long-term investment success. Ultimately, the system of “sponsors” helps the employees to navigate the company, learn about its activities, and find the right place to apply one’s skills and abilities. Since the model of W. L. Gore & Associates proved so successful, other companies did not hesitate to apply it to their own standards. For example, Google also allows the employees time to work towards developing new solutions and applications during the official work hours, which resembles W. L. Gore & Associates’ “dabble time”. Many other companies such as Procter & Gamble and Nestle have adopted models similar to that of W. L. Gore & Associates by mandating employees to rotate from one department to another thereby allowing them to learn more about the organization and to apply their skills and abilities where they feel most needed. (Schermerhorn, 2007). Additionally, many companies in various industries include profit-sharing options as a part of the compensation package to link employees’ money to company’s goals and objectives (Robbins, 2005).
Finally, one should note that the W. L. Gore & Associates model seemingly provides much freedom to the employees, and links their success to the company’s success through distribution of the corporate stock/shares as a part of the compensation. The model calls for the formal removal of bosses/managers yet presents the system of challenge-driven teams, which the employees may freely choose or change, depending on their aspiration. Although this model has worked successfully for W. L. Gore & Associates, there are some elements that may be viewed as unorthodox and unsuitable for other major corporations. As with any model, there are strengths and weaknesses. It is true that there are many successful companies on the market that did not use Gore’s approach; however, there are several that may greatly benefit from the use of Gore’s Model. Strengths – Peter 2 Pages
As highlighted above, Gore and Associates has taken a different approach to its operations. This approach has been a proven success and has several advantages. While the company is functionally broken down into four product management divisions, personnel within these divisions are interchangeable to the extent that they are available to support efforts outside of their “home” division. This structure and approach ensures that work is done with a focus on customer satisfaction, unlike functional organizations which often have trouble the seeing things from a customer perspective (Nesheim, 2011). The structure and approach also facilitate consistent and unfettered knowledge sharing. Based upon the collaborative nature of its workforce, Gore & Associates could be described as a functional structure with (deep) horizontal linkages (Daft, 2013). Personal responsibility and accountability are contagious at Gore & Associates. The commitments made by individual employees bind them to others. However, the ability to choose commitments to specific projects increases the likelihood that employees are working on things that have drawn their interest (pull vice push). The personal accountability leads to team accountability, which in turn is likely to lead to a high-quality product.
Much like the horizontal accountability described by Day and Elder (2007), peer evaluation and group discipline also are part of the Gore & Associates model. Furthermore, the company preemptively mitigates unhealthy competition between associates with a salary-, stock option-, and profit sharing-based approach (vice commission-based). The leadership framework at Gore & Associates model is one that recognizes merit. Leaders emerge or are chosen based upon specific knowledge, skills, and abilities, both technical and managerial. The kinds of leaders described by founder Bill Gore ultimately provide the oversight and management needed in any organization, but it is the way that they are selected that sets Gore & Associates apart. The dynamic nature of company operations is such that different leaders can emerge depending upon the specific requirement. This approach builds a wide base of confident, competent, and experienced employees who can step up to accomplish tasks at multiple levels (tactical , operational, and strategic). The approach also provides a pool from which the company’s few formal leadership posts could be filled. This assumption seems to be confirmed by the fact that since Bill Gore’s retirement in 1976, each of the company’s presidents has been a long-term Gore & Associates employee (Daft, 2013). Well-informed decisions are another advantage of the Gore & Associates approach. The company utilizes what employees call “knowledge-based decision-making.” Although it is not exactly like the process owner-led approach described by Nesheim (2011), the knowledge-based team approach does include a facilitating leader and cross-functional participation. This approach does not guarantee success, but it is the author’s contention that utilizing a team comprised of subject matter experts increases the chance of reaching a positive result.
The company’s structure facilitates the rapid stand-up of the personnel resources need for a knowledge-based team, and that structure also allows for the team’s rapid dissolution once work is completed. With regard to strategic decisions, questions about timeliness have been addressed by pointing out the implementation benefits gained from organizational input (e.g., familiarity, lessened resistance, grass-roots, and advocacy). Gore & Associates greatest strength can be found in the organizational culture that permeates the organization. From the first day of work, employees are encouraged and enabled to enter into relationships that will provide professional as well as personal enhancement. Training opportunities in technical and leadership areas further emphasize the value that the company places upon employees. Investment in workforce development, emphasis on fostering employee initiative, and intentional positioning of employees as organizational stakeholders has resulted in high levels of organizational loyalty. Ultimately, the creativity and innovation born of that (earned) loyalty has produced organizational success for Gore & Associates. Weaknesses – Jay 2 Pages
Despite the 50 year success of Gore & Associates there are a number of drawbacks to the hierarchically flat leadership structure and organic nature of internal communications. Organizations competing in a global market are constantly faced with new challenges presented by emerging trends, new demographics, and advancing technology. As a result they must adopt a clear vision, offer swift and authoritative feedback, and maintain agility in overall decision making. Gore & Associates has emphasized interpersonal and operational standards best suited to a small-sized organization. Throughout their growth to a highly globalized international conglomerate they have neglected to introduce complexities necessary to adequately address their complex organizational environment (Daft, 2013). While Gore & Associates may maintain a high sense of employee morale the overall ambiguity introduced by the environment itself may impede operational efficiency and competitive agility. Gore & Associates coined and leverages the “Natural Leadership” style (Daft, 2013, p. 569). This approach to leadership is dynamic in nature as it allows individuals possessing expertise to step forward and take charge of a project. As a result the expectation is the most experienced and knowledgeable person will always guide work efforts even if they are not the designated team leader. This approach is quite similar to the “Team Leadership” approach and offers many of the associated drawbacks identified within the theory (Northouse, 2013, pp. 291-312).
Team members within Gore & Associates are faced with the challenge of determining whether the team possesses skills required to successfully negotiate any given scenario. While the team may consist of experienced individuals its contributing members may not possess enough information or background to determine whether their collective or individual skills are sufficient for an assigned project. This may result in the natural election of an unqualified leader by process of elimination. The remaining team members may become overconfident and rely too heavily on the selected leader and as a result blindly follow without questioning direction. This situation can be compounded by the fact Gore & Associates does not rely on titles to identify its employees. Titles also serve to distinguish varying levels of experience and seniority within an organization. In their absences it is difficult to maintain a holistic perspective of the employee talent pool offering access to resources from other environments (Iles, Preece, & Xin, 2010). Gore & Associates may also find it difficult to respond to changes presented by their organizational environment with any level of agility. In the absence of dedicated research and development employees are encouraged to experiment with products to find new or unique consumer-based applications. Gore’s employees may find it difficult to dedicate time to these activities given high performance expectations within the work environment and the constant need to offer peer guidance to fellow employees. Engineers from various groups meet monthly to discuss potential projects however absence of authoritative leadership may result in exclusion of new ideas from junior employees. In addition, the executive leadership only meets every other month to discuss new ideas or review possible corporate acquisitions. The lack of lower level leadership may lead to a loss of innovation due to group-think and a recycling of old concepts and ideas.
This is particularly risky due to Gore & Associates expiring pool of patents surrounding its core technology. Overall the management and leadership style of Gore & Associates may work for its particular industry however it would not be appropriate to many in Information Technology, Financial Services, or direct consumer sales. In each of these industries organizations must thoroughly understand the competitive landscape as defined by their associated organizational environments. Each must understand the direct needs of their consumer base and define strict timelines leading towards successful delivery. While Gore & Associates may currently enjoy the luxury of a slow evolution in their sectors technology the same cannot be said for companies like Apple, Google, or Motorola. Customer demand and product use scenarios change at a moment’s notice and competition is fierce. As a result these companies must proactively work to understand consumer trends providing direct feedback to the development process. They must further maintain a reserve pipeline of potential products in research and development anticipating the need for newer or evolved demands. Firm and authoritative leadership is critical to ensuring effective communication and decision making. Applying Gore & Associates natural leadership style in these scenarios may result in decision gridlock and slow dissemination of crucial market data.