Chapter 6: The Associates: “The leverage of others labour and skills.”
Annie began making her way round the internal walkway that encircled the concrete cavern passing the six square doorways with their black wooden frames. As she passed each doorway she read each separate inscription carved deep into the concrete in large Celtic script.
I “The leverage of others labour and skills.”
II “The Creation of a definite plan & purpose.”
III “Serving others with specialised knowledge or skills.”
IV “Persistence and the understanding of human desires and fears.”
V “Material wealth through the mastery of financial education.”
IV “The power and orchestration of organized systems, processes & people.”
As Annie approached the first doorway the narrator invited her to enter its reception room which looked like a perfectly formed black box with wooden panelled walls, floor & ceiling. As she entered the dimly lit room, the black wooden door closed slowly behind her and a single holographic portrait appeared of the Great Welsh social reformer and one of the founders of the cooperative movement Robert Owen and below it the quote;
“There is but one mode by which man can possess in perpetuity all the happiness which his nature is capable of enjoying- that is by the union and co-operation of all for the benefit of each.”
At that dozens of holographic portraits appeared on the walls with portraits of each team member employed at the Park and below their name the single title ‘Associate’. Momentarily the holographic portraits faded and disappeared as a second door appeared. The door opened to the human resources sector of the control centre and as Annie entered the brightly lit room she noticed the large hand written words on the furthest facing wall;
“Have the Courage to take a Risk & share your Values, Passion, Faith, Vision and Ideas with the World”.
Annie entered the room to the background noise of buzzing activity and an expansive open plan room full of individuals of every age and nationality vocal and animated with enthusiasm. The energy in the room was positive and contagious and as Annie stood surveying the room every individual who passed her acknowledged her with a welcome, hello or friendly remark. The surroundings were warm, friendly and inviting and everyone she observed exhibited a sense of purpose and focus in their brisk walk, upright stature and gestures.
The expansive open plan room had an inviting café in the centre of the room and five cinematic screens to the right of the room with live feeds from the other sectors. To the left of the room were four adjoining square conservatory rooms for recruitment, training, team building and design thinking. Every associate wore the same immaculate hi-tech uniform with the same colour, trim, detailing and fastenings but in different styles, shapes & silhouettes to compliment their age, shape & personality. The surroundings exuded order, discipline and focus but with an underlying spirit and atmosphere of freedom, self expression and individualism.
The attention to detail displayed in the design of the Human Resources room showed a definite vision of how the Park valued their employees. From the choice of interior colours, the natural programmed lighting, the uniforms, dress code to the use of technology to interconnect with other departments to create an inclusive single layered culture. Everything from the positioning of the café with its large comfy sofas and friendly staff in the centre of the room was designed to encourage a sense of community.
Annie approached the recruitment room to her left, and from the external viewing window with its one way glass she observed the processes and systems the Park used for recruiting new associates. The instructor explained that they were joining a company culture unlike anything they had experienced before. The instructor explained how its Human Resources model was inspired by the principles of the legendary W. Edwards Deming and companies like W. L. Gore.
Most people think of Deming as the genius statistician who revitalized Japanese industry, yet his understanding that people ‘are the business’ is what equally contributed to his success. He understood that people flourish in a positive environment when given the freedom to use their brains, the right tools & systems to continuous innovation and improvement not a culture of ’FEAR’. He knew that people fundamentally take pride in what they do and everyone has different talents and abilities to bring to an organization. Deming was the forefather who dispelled the idea that employees were costs to be minimized and nurtured a culture where associates should have the freedom to learn, fail, question and innovate.
‘Deming believed everyone had a right to joy in work.’
The instructor went on to explain why they were ranked as one of the best places in the world to work with a human centred culture. Unlike other organizations they would all become stakeholders in the Park, they had no hierarchy, no layers of management just one elected central manager with a lattice of associates with equal responsibility to the team and the organization.
The founders of the Park like W. L. Gore’s founder Wilbert (Bill) L. Gore whose company never made a loss in over 50 + years believed that you can’t have innovation without a shared vision in your business. If all our associates don’t feel they are making a difference or feel valued we won’t have collaboration or innovation. To be qualified as a leading associate in the Park would be determined by your peers and the followers you gain in the process of achieving both the Associates & Parks goals.
Finally the new recruits were introduced to a series of employee benefits unique to the Park; Remote-homework exchange program for individuals who were transitioning from maternity or parental or carers leave. Their ongoing training programs of areas of professional interest to new recruits in developing their passions and personal visions for the future.
As Annie made her way to the other conservatories the instructor in the training room was delivering a role playing exercise. It was clear that the culture within the Park was one of organized structure yet the fundamental difference was that the associates were not being trained to be robots with parrot fashion scripts the systems and processes they were being shown and taught were guidelines to serving the customer with respect and courtesy. As each associate acted out different role playing exercises each individual brought their own personal character and style to the situation with the single objective of ‘serving the customer’.
For Annie the culture displayed in the Human Resources room resonated with both her heart and her logic leaving her with the want to learn more of what the ‘Black Box” tour had to teach her.