Free to succeed . . .
Whether in troubled economic times or during years of prosperity, there is a proven way for companies to boost productivity, profits, and growth. Remarkably, it costs nothing––whether cost is measured in terms of monetary resources or time– –and is simply based on the belief that, if only people can be free to act in the best interests of their company, the results will be tremendous. Freedom, Inc. presents the evidence that this is not the Pollyannaish wish of a few dreamers, but a reality built by bottom-line-focused leaders. . . .
The culture of freedom works–and Freedom, Inc. reveals the secrets of a successful business paradigm based on a trusting, nonhierarchical, liberated environment.
The visionary leaders profiled here performed near-miracles in driving their companies to unheard-of levels of success, often from unlikely or disheartening beginnings. Businesses as diverse as insurance company USAA, winemaker Sea Smoke Cellars, Gore & Associates, advertising agency The Richardson Group, Harley-Davidson, and Sun Hydraulics have had the insight and courage to challenge long-held management beliefs about human nature and employees–and radically depart from the traditional command-and-control structures, rules, and policies. By freeing up the individual initiative and risk-taking instincts of every employee, these companies showed they could dramatically outperform their rivals in an array of fiercely competitive industries.
By listening to employees instead of telling them what to do, by treating them as equals and not limiting information through a trickle-down hierarchy, and by encouraging a culture in which employees have commitments (something chosen) as opposed to jobs (something imposed), these companies liberated their workers to fulfill their own individual potential, which has led to more productive, loyal, and engaged workers, as well as significant measurable profits and growth.
The key to a successful business is affording your employees more breathing room, claim journalist Carney and management professor Getz. Using examples of worker-centric companies countrywide, they make the case that the more freedom employees are given, the more rewards the company will reap. Starting with the history of workplaces—Thomas Jefferson's theories figure prominently—and a plethora of stories of such successful companies as FAVI, USAA, Vertex and Harley, the authors concentrate heavily on the importance of running a “why” company—making sure employees know why they're doing what they're doing—rather than a “how” company, in which employers instruct their employees on how to do their jobs. Much space is given to the art of listening to employees, building an environment that allows them to grow and self-direct, breaking away from hierarchical and bureaucratic corporate structure, treating workers as equals and motivating them to self-motivation. Worthy prescriptions all, but without the backing of wide-reaching data or larger vision, repetition replaces argument—and the whole suffers. (Oct.)