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Freedom, Inc.: Free Your Employees and Let Them Lead Your Business to Higher Productivity, Profits, and Growth (Anglais) Relié – Séquence inédite, 13 octobre 2009

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How Not to Run a Business

Even If You don't know what Gore-Tex is, you know what it does: It keeps you dry--guaranteed. As a brand, Gore-Tex has been so successful that it sometimes seems in danger of disappearing, of becoming a generic term like "Band-Aid." Since it was invented in 1971, Gore-Tex has given rise to a number of competing products. Some of those boast properties said to be superior to the original. But if you walk into a store and want to know whether a ski jacket is waterproof, the question you'll probably ask is "Is it Gore-Tex?"

It's the kind of brand dominance--over both market share and "mind share"--that marketers dream of, or lose sleep over. The story of how it came to be, and came to symbolize an entire market category, is the story of two radical ideas.

Bill and Genevieve Gore's first idea was that there were market opportunities for a chemical called polytetrafluorethylene--PTFE for short--that DuPont wasn't pursuing.

Today, PTFE is best known as Teflon, that magical polymer that keeps our pans from sticking and our pipes from leaking, among a myriad of other far-flung uses. It is supposedly so slippery that it is the only known substance to which a gecko's feet will not stick. But in 1938, it was an experiment gone wrong for Roy Plunkett, who worked at DuPont. Plunkett was trying to develop a refrigerant for car air conditioners when one of his canisters of gas seized up solid. He cut it open and found that the tetrafluorethylene inside had "polymerized"--that is, turned to a kind of plastic, white and slippery. Three years later, DuPont received a patent on the stuff, but then contented itself with selling it as a raw material to those who wanted to incorporate it into their products. It would be another thirteen years before a Frenchman, Marc Gregoire, stuck it to a pan so that nothing else would.

Bill Gore had other plans for PTFE. He thought it would make a great insulator for electrical cables. But DuPont was a chemical materials company, not an electrical products company, and wasn't interested. So, at the age of forty-six, this father of four quit DuPont, licensed PTFE, and set up shop in his basement with seed money from friends in the Gores' bridge club.1

As it turned out, Bill Gore was right about PTFE's potential. But it was his and Vieve's second idea that gave the world Gore-Tex, along with more than one thousand other innovative products, and made W. L. Gore & Associates into a multibillion-dollar leader in markets spanning from aerospace and electronics to energy and health care. Like PTFE, that second idea was borrowed, in a way, from DuPont. But like the remarkable polymer, Bill's insight had to do with what the company he had worked at for years wasn't doing.

Bill Gore believed that the way we talk about one another and about our jobs affects the way we think and the way we act. So he replaced his employees with "associates," their jobs with "commitments," and their managers with "leaders."

Of course, it's possible, as George Orwell knew, to change all the words without changing reality. And changing the reality of how people work was Bill Gore's real ambition.


Les Lewis, today a manufacturing leader at Gore, was one of the company's first associates. He recalled what it was like at Gore in 1965. "It was early on, at a funny time for the company," Lewis explained. "We had [one plant], seventy people, and believe it or not, a dozen 'supervisors.' I was one of them, and I decided to write the first supervisor's handbook--how to deal with back vacations, the sorts of things that a supervisor needs guidelines for."

What Lewis described as a "funny time" is a phase that almost every successful start-up goes through. The company has started to grow; maybe one day you walk in and realize that you no longer recognize everyone who works there and don't always know who does what and how anymore. Sooner or later, someone decides that order needs to be restored, or established. An enterprising manager like Lewis decides he'll share his insights by setting them down on paper, and the first manual is written to tell people how to do their jobs.

If you're one of those managers, this might seem to be an attractive opportunity--a chance to show your quality and pass on your experience. Some people might even think it fun, a bit like setting down the rules of a whole new society that, from now on, will run like a well-oiled machine.

But Lewis's "fun" did not last long. Today, a handbook such as the one Lewis wanted would be unthinkable at this company. But how did founder Bill react to the manual in those early days?

Lewis described Bill Gore's big idea as a product of his experience at DuPont.2 As Gore explained it to Lewis at the time, "When [DuPont] wanted to work on a project, they would assemble a small team, and that small team would work very much as equals . . . where there was not a hierarchical thing. Everybody worked, everybody brought their skill and knowledge together." This was, for Gore, an ideal way of working. But at DuPont, "once that project got to a certain point, they would all go back to their organizations, in a much more hierarchical chain of command." Gore's notion was simple: If this collaborative, nonhierarchical, liberated structure worked for important projects that needed to get done quickly, why shouldn't a company work that way all the time? So once Gore left DuPont and started his own company, he decided to do just that. According to Lewis, Bill Gore "vowed that if he ever had a company of his own, he would want it that way because he thought that it really invited a lot of people's creative skills to come forward." Even so, it took time and experimentation before Gore settled on an effective way to implement his idea.

The discovery of Lewis's supervisor handbook, as it happens, was a clarifying moment for Bill Gore. "He wasn't turned on by it," Lewis said drily, adding, "But when I wanted to introduce a requisition form for shop work, that was the end of it--Bill hated forms."

So Bill Gore decided to take his supervisors out to dinner. Soon the monthly dinners became an academy in the values and principles of leadership. "It was almost a Socratic approach to teaching people to lead," recalled Lewis. "At these dinners, he would talk about how to lead--we wouldn't call it 'leading' then; we were [still] 'supervisors'--and how to 'sponsor'--we didn't call it 'sponsoring' then. He would discuss problems that we had and would ask everyone, 'How would you do that?' We would hear different ideas about how to deal with situations," Lewis explained. "It was absolutely a dialogue. He would never drive his answers to us, [saying, 'This is] what you ought to do.' Instead, he would ask, 'How have you solved this problem? Has anyone else experienced one of these?' Meanwhile, he was also instilling in us values and value judgments."

So the "funny time" ended. No supervisors ever attempted to write rules and policies again, because there were no more supervisors at Gore. And the leaders, who took the place of the supervisors, were busy helping people--instead of telling them how they had to work. But it would take more experimentation and time before Bill Gore fully implemented his second big idea of a radically different way to work.


Fast-forward to the mid-1980s. Thirteen years ago, Lewis had left the company for greener pastures. After spending this period in more traditional command-and-control companies, he's now decided to return to his native Newark, Delaware, and give W. L. Gore & Associates the benefit of knowledge and experience he's gained about managing big companies. Gore itself had gotten a lot bigger over the years, with several manufacturing sites in the United States and abroad and several thousand associates. The circumstances looked perfect. The plant had just been moved to a brand-new facility and Lewis, a newly minted manufacturing leader had a big corner office, making him feel important: "I was feeling very confident--'I have arrived,' you know?" There was a lot on his plate. Operations were inefficient and the manufacturing techniques people used appalled Lewis: "Instead of computers they were using a columnar pad with numbers they were ticking off to run manufacturing operations by hand."

So Lewis decided to change all that, to instill some discipline, show people that they were working in a backward way, and push them to use a newfangled tool called a computer spreadsheet.

It looked like the right thing to do. Though quite big already, the company lagged behind its main competitors in the use of modern, computer-based operations management. Lewis's proposed course of action was unimpeachable and would have been accepted in any other company. What Lewis couldn't see is how different Gore had become since he'd left.

His efforts lasted six months and the only result was personal--he was ready to leave the company again. And it wasn't because of then-president Bob Gore's--Bill's son--hatred of computers ("Bill hated forms, Bob hated computers," Lewis explained) but because no associate would ever listen to him, never mind follow him. "I was using the techniques that I had been practicing for thirteen years elsewhere. More power, more influence, more whatever, and suddenly it dawned on me--an epiphany: 'You know what the Gore organization is like. You were in it. Why are you trying this top-down kind of a way?'"

And so Lewis rediscovered the values and principles of leadership Bill Gore had taught him and others at their Socratic dinner meetings. Lewis dubbed it the "yellow brick road."

"You ask your associates 'Where do you want to go?'" Lewis told us. "And they say, 'To the Emerald City.' So you don't tell them, 'Follow the yellow brick road,' the road your own knowledge dictates is the right one," Lewis explained. "You don't, because all they will say is, 'You're crazy. We're going off through the woods.' So you take your bricks and go with them, and throw them one by one in front of them--not giving the answer, but ideas, information, letting them find their own answers. And with every new brick they step on, [your] credibility goes up." Lewis summarized: "I had no credibility, but little by little each of those bricks brought my credibility up."

Lewis had rediscovered that, with all his responsibility for leading a big plant, all his knowledge and experience about how to run operations better, associates wouldn't follow him until he filled what he called his "credibility bucket." He was learning that a "leader" is not just a manager with a different title. A leader is someone whom others follow naturally. At Gore, when Lewis returned, that culture was already so strong that he ran into it face-first, and it nearly drove him back into the command-and-control world. But even at more traditional companies, this same dynamic holds. It's just that at traditional firms, all the tension is under the surface. As Gore's CEO, Terri Kelly, explained, "What you find in a lot of companies is that if there isn't true support for the decision, it gets undermined along the way. In fact, it may never come to fruition. So on the one hand you've made a very quick decision--'We're going to go to China'--but then you've got all kinds of resistance."3 So in those companies, the employees may not go into open revolt--most of the time. But if they are not sincerely consulted by their manager, or if they think he lacks credibility, your company will quietly leak productivity every day--and perhaps even sink.

The difference at Gore is that the associates there are genuinely consulted--and they are free to choose. This freedom is one of the hallmarks of all of the liberated companies in this book. And by exercising their choice not to follow the Les Lewis who had returned from the outside world, Gore's associates were actually doing him a favor. They were providing him with valuable information about how he was doing his job that allowed him to change tack and become a more effective leader. The all-too-familiar alternative--each of us grumbles to himself, his family, or his coworkers, but keeps his head down and does enough work to avoid attracting attention--may be one of the invisible but profound reasons your company isn't performing the way you think it should.

OK, you may say. But how do you get everyone to row in the same direction without a boss at the helm? What guides people's freely chosen actions and prevents them from pursuing their own interests at the company's expense? Gore has a way of thinking about these challenges. And unsurprisingly, it's just a little bit different from the way most companies do. Gore people live the company's four principles: The first is "freedom." But along with it are "fairness," "commitment," and "the waterline." The thing to know about these principles is that, unlike the mission and values statements at many companies, associates actually think about and live them. Fairness, commitment, and the waterline make freedom work for Gore.


Fairness is about being fair to others--both inside and outside the company. According to Lewis, W. L. Gore & Associates wants to treat its suppliers and its customers as equals. But fairness has an internal component as well--it's about treating your colleagues with dignity and as equals. Lewis, in fact, once needed a little help to understand the fairness principle.

Back in the mid-1960s, when Lewis was a young supervisor, the company was scraping by and still working out the kinks in its production of PTFE-coated cables--its only product at the time. When a batch went bad, Lewis came up with what he thought was an enterprising way to save money by stripping the bad cables so the materials could be reused. "So, I got these three women in the back of the plant and I gave them a wire spool each to sit down on," Lewis explained. "And I put these spools of cable that had to be stripped there, and I gave them some kind of a knife or something to strip it, and they are sitting back there in the bowels of the Earth like a coffee klatch, stripping this wire off." Lewis thought to himself: " 'All right. I am set up. Man, we are getting this stripped off and getting it recoated; we are going to save all this.' Back then we couldn't afford to throw stuff away." Needless to say, Lewis was pretty pleased with his economy and enterprise. Bill Gore, however, thought that Lewis needed some help.

Lewis left the women to their work and went back out onto the shop floor, where Bill found him. Lewis continued the story:

Revue de presse

"Brian Carney and Isaac Getz have used their powerful concept of freedom to serve as a crucial foundation for their imaginatively framed ideas in the broader area of commerce. A most interesting and original work."
––James MacGregor Burns, author of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom, 1940—1945

"Human energy and creativity are key to any successful enterprise–yet most organization theories unwittingly suppress the power of employees. With dozens of vivid stories, Freedom, Inc. shows how successful firms tap into the human spirit, building a culture of accomplishment and human fulfillment. A must-read for every manager and entrepreneur."
––Philip K. Howard, author of Life Without Lawyers and The Death of Common Sense

"I've never thought that any of the things I've done were radical. They just seemed natural. . . . My total focus is on our work. . . . What can I do to keep making the work better and better and better and better."
––Stan Richards, founder and head of The Richards Group

"If the [work] environment is right, then we do the product right and we make a ton of money and have a blast. . . . In this culture there is zero tension and there is absolute trust."
––Bob Davids, founder of Sea Smoke Cellars

"I had to make the jobs more meaningful. . . . If you enrich the jobs you enrich the people."
––Robert McDermott, former CEO of USAA

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Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 336 pages
  • Editeur : Crown Business (13 octobre 2009)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0307409384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307409386
  • Dimensions du produit: 16,6 x 2,7 x 24 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (4 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 33.375 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Alors que de (trop) nombreuses entreprises/organisations proclament la primauté de l'Homme en leur sein sans pour autant leur accorder grand cas dans la pratique (processus et procédures établissant des normes auxquelles se conformer, confiance limitée car basée sur des constats partiels, controles incessants, etc...); les auteurs montrent et démontrent qu'il est possible (souhaitable ?) de construire des organisations fondées sur les fondements même de l'intérêt accordé à son travail et à la réussite collective. Les expériences des entreprises diverses et de leur dirigeant (au sens leader et non directeur) éclairent parfaitement la thèse soutenue et permettent d'imaginer une application dans de nombreux secteurs d'activité. A lire absolument ! une véritable révolution de jasmin potentielle dans l'entreprise.
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Par Yvan G. le 31 mai 2011
Format: Relié
Livre très intéressant, car présentant un mode de gestion d'entreprise en contrepoint de ce qui se fait dans l'écrasante majorité des cas. A noter que l'auteur livre également quelques clés de compréhension sur le pourquoi du mode de management "traditionnel" et sur son origine.
Ce livre est par ailleurs très agréable à lire, écrit dans un anglais clair, et fourmille d'exemples et de situations pour illustrer son propos.
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Excellent livre, incluant des exemples tant américains qu' européens. Le recentrage sur les personnes plus que sur les procédures, la confiance et le partage de la vision plus que les controles permettent une performance supérieure à l'entreprise. Il y a là une source d'inspiration pour les managers, en particulier en cette période de sortie de crise. Espérons qu'une version française sera disponible prochainement.
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Un livre très bien écrit qui éveille la conscience à de nouvelles pratiques managériales simplement révolutionnaires et terriblement efficaces... L'occasion de remettre en cause les idées reçues en matière de management et de contrôle.
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Amazon.com: 8 commentaires
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Ordered Liberty in the Workplace 28 octobre 2009
Par Michael Yaeger - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
I just finished Freedom, Inc. and it was great -- both entertaining and substantive. It was especially fun to find a popular business book full of memorable vignettes (i.e., case studies) and the occasional social science finding that also addresses, without strain or pretension, Max Weber on bureaucracy and Thomas Aquinas on subsidiarity. (The latter being especially surprising.) It's hard to picture other recent business books tackling similar subjects .... "Herr Weber Stole My Cheese"? "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Thomists"? It's a welcome change.
Among other things the book argues that, however valuable salary and bonuses may be in recruiting employees, a business will not retain its best employees or inspire their best efforts with money alone. Money matters, but it is no substitute for workers who understand and agree with a company's mission, regardless of whether that mission is producing the best motorcycle or resolving a customer's insurance claim as quickly as possible. The job of a leader, say Carney and Getz, is to communicate that mission (again and again), and to create an environment that gives employees the freedom to achieve the mission as efficiently as possible. That environment is never reduced to a formula, but is summarized as one that respects the individual's needs for dignity (or "intrinsic equality"), professional growth, and relative autonomy. The point isn't to let the inmates run the asylum, but to convert the asylum to a cooperative effort among individuals who respect one another.
All in all, Freedom, Inc. is a serious yet straightforward discussion of practical leadership in the private sector. Its description of "ordered liberty" in the workplace is appealing and convincing.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Wonderful book with broad application! 19 novembre 2009
Par Yudi - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
I'm just writing to tell you how much i enjoyed this book. The
blend of psychology, business smarts, and good old fashion common
sense not only makes for a wonderful read but also opens up a whole
new dimension to psychology and the study of human behavior, far
beyond the traditional "couch therapy".

The argument that people are intrinsically driven by their need to be
productive, creative, self expressing and free, as opposed to just
being motivated by money, profit, and the pleasures they afford, is
amazingly powerful, both in its broad practical application as well as
in its philosophical and spiritual insight.

As someone looking to begin studying psychology its an idea i hope to
follow closely.

Looking forward to reading much more
9 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
"If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need." William L. McKnight 14 octobre 2009
Par Robert Morris - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
What we have in this volume is a brilliant analysis by Brian Carney and Isaac Getz of how specific business leaders recognized and then responded to an ever-increasing "demand for freedom" among workers who felt "stifled, constrained, hemmed in, and tied down by bureaucracy and rules that have nothing to do with allowing them to do the best they can in their jobs. These constraints leave people feeling out of control of their work lives, which, in turn, leads to stress, fatigue, and disengagement from work." Re this last point, recent Gallup research indicates that only 29% of the U.S. workforce is positively engaged (i.e. loyal, enthusiastic, and productive) whereas 55% are passively disengaged. That is, they are going through the motions, doing only what they must, "mailing it in," coasting, etc. What about the other 16%? They are "actively disengaged" in that they are doing whatever they can to undermine their employer's efforts to succeed. Is it any wonder that, in the United States, 80% of the people surveyed believe that incivility is a problem? Moreover, 96% have experienced it at work, 80% believe they get no respect there, and 75% are dissatisfied with the way uncivil behavior is handled. As for the total cost of incivility in the workplace, the conservative estimate is at least $300-billion a year incurred by U.S. corporations but it could be twice that if it were possible to determine the value of customer dissatisfaction, attrition of valued workers, and toxic business development.

Especially during a period such as now when the global economy is so turbulent and disruptive, business executives must be even more effective as leaders and managers. As Geoff Colvin suggests in The Upside of the Downturn: Ten Management Strategies to Prevail in the Recession and Thrive in the Aftermath, they understand the importance of taking five actions that are "simple to state and may seem simple to do, but they aren't": (1) They are highly visible and "make it emphatically clear they are present and on the job," (2) They are calm and in control, demonstrating composure and especially self-discipline; (3) They are decisive, making not only the tough calls but making what Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis characterize (in their book Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls) as "the right tough calls"; (4) They show fearlessness by "facing bad news head on without cringing," addressing dangers in unvarnished terms; and (5) They explain a crisis in a larger context "by giving shape to events that have occurred and are occurring, portraying them as interesting, normal elements of life that may be no fun but [can be dealt with] while learning and growing." In the healthiest organizations, there are leaders at every level and in all areas who demonstrate these five actions.

That certainly describes the leadership and management style of the exemplary CEOs whom Carney and Getz discuss, notably Bob Davids (Radica Games and then Sea Smoke Cellars), Kiyoshi Furuta (NUMMI), Bill Gore (W.L. Gore & Associates), Liisa Joronen (SOL), David Kelley (IDEO), Lars Kolind (Oticon), Bob Koski (Sun Hydraulics), Robert McDermott (USAA), Stan Richards (Richards Group), Jacques Szulevicz (GSI), Rich Teerlink (Harley-Davidson), Jeff Westfal (Vertex), and Jean-François Zobrist (FAVI). What they accomplished in their respective organizations provides rock-solid evidence of what liberated workers can accomplish when given what William L. McKnight characterizes as "the room they need."

At one point in their narrative, Carney and Getz identify and then discuss four initiatives that all of these CEOs took during the "liberation campaign" each led: First, stop telling and start listening, showing respect for others as partners, not as subordinates; next, compellingly describe and enthusiastically share your vision of the company with them so that they will "own" it...but don't do this until after Step 1; and stop trying to motivate people and, instead, create an environment that allows people to grow and self-direct; finally, "stay alert" with "eternal vigilance," serving as the "culture keeper." At Southwest Airlines, there is a Culture Committee whose membership consists of C-level executives and baggage handlers, mechanics and flight attendants, accountants and gatekeepers. As former CEO Herb Kelleher explains, "Before people knew how to make fire, there was a fire watcher. Cave dwellers may have found a tree hit by lightning and brought fire back to the cave. Somebody had to make sure it kept going because if it went out, everyone would be in great danger so the fire watcher was the most important person in the tribe. I said to our culture committee, `You are our fire watchers, who make sure the fire does not go out. I think you are the most important committee at Southwest Airlines.'"

Carney and Getz are to be commended on the wealth of valuable information they provide in this book, and especially for the pragmatic idealism that guides and informs their suggestions as to how to derive the greatest value from this information. Almost all of their observations are relevant to any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. Moreover, almost every initiative they recommend can be acted upon immediately. That said, they hasten to add - and I fully agree - that planning, launching, and then sustaining a "liberation campaign" is immensely complicated and requires effective leadership, of course, but whose success ultimately depends on inspiring rather than "motivating" workers to become self-directed, supporting their efforts during a sometimes difficult journey of discovery. When concluding this review, I am reminded of a passage from Lao-Tzu's Tao Te Ching:

"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know;
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves. "
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Are your talents being utilized? 17 mars 2010
Par Waldorf Heinrichs - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This is a fantastic read for anyone who feels that their abilities are not being maximized. There are ramifications that go beyond private companies, profits, and bottom lines. If you work in ANY job where you feel your creative talents are not effectively utilized, you should read this book. Company culture has been shown in numerous studies to have a direct impact on individual performance. The book examines several case studies where companies "freed" their employees by creating an environment of trust and support, and the results were synergy, the growth and productive harvesting of individual talents, and organizational success. You will think differently about the organization that you work for
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Great subject-to be read absolutely but badly written 8 septembre 2012
Par Matthieu Oliviers - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
The subject is great nad very inspiring.

It is a pity that the book is poorly structured, the Text badly written and above all the subject not enough supported by framework or tolls&tips for action.
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