W.L Gore Confronts Chaos

W.L Gore Confronts Chaos

W.L Gore is lauded as being one of the world’s most innovative organisations and in the last 50 years, has never made a loss. The company , however is not immune from the “velocity of change transforming our economy”. Terri Kelly, the CEO of W.L Gore recently explained her organisations response to this constant pace of change – organisational maturity.

“We have one through distinct periods of uncertainty in the past, but now it’s constant. In the past we might have talked about hitting a soft spot. Now so many things are changing, they are out of whack.”

Share the Struggle

Kelly emphasises that in order to enhance the maturity of the organisation, all members of that organisation need to be aware of, and embrace the reality of the company’s situation. This can only be achieved through sharing information, even the stresses and struggles in the company, so that employees can appreciate the challenges people face in leadership positions.

Transparency builds trust. Some companies try to keep protected. You end up filtering so much; your people are really disconnected.” – Terri Kelly, CEO, W.L Gore

Take Careers Off-Road

The aim for W.L Gore is not to provide a set path for promotion. To promote organisational maturity employees need to create their own career paths. The organisation also doesn’t employ one single rating tool, opting instead to look at things in a situational context. To be able to struggle and reach a solution independently is seen as a crucial component of training. However this is an individual experience, impossible to replicate.

“If we have too much structure, that might take you backward – you might not get that facility that comes from “Oh my god, I don’t know what I’m doing”, and then figuring it out. You’ve got to get that facility for ambiguity.” – Terri Kelly, CEO, W.L Gore

Celebrate The Bold And The Bureaucratic

While top-down management systems or pyramidal hierarchal structures may not be promoted, the company still recognises the importance of having a broader architecture to facilitate effective communication throughout the company, it is important to have structures in place which allow relevant lessons to be spread. 

“I wouldn’t say we drive organisational effectiveness, that’s more foreign to us. But I’d rather come at this challenge from the creative side, and then put structures around creativity, that figure out how to build creativity where it doesn’t exist.” – Terri Kelly, CEO, W.L Gore

Make It Rain

Rainmakers, as they are called in the article, are the creators who put forward the wild ideas and it is the implementers who make the ideas a reality. It is necessary to ensure that there is equal support for both types as, when they oppose each other, it’s all too easy to back the implementers.

“We try to protect the rainmakers. That means we have to be comfortable with more chaos… Our organization is used to dealing with chaos, we have a high tolerance for it. We like to respond to crises. When the ship is under attack, the level of ownership is high, culturally.” – Terri Kelly, CEO, W.L Gore

Read the full article from Fast Company: Terri Kelly, The “un-CEO” of W.L. Gore, on How to Deal with Chaos: Grow Up

Dr Gary Hamel, the leading authority on management innovation and leading business strategist, also spoke with Terri Kelly about W.L Gore’s unique management model. The in depth interview can be found here (part 1) and here (part 2),

Dr Gary Hamel spoke on how an organisations leadership model can impact on their ability to be truly innovative and adaptable at the 2014 Business Influentials series in Australia and New Zealand.