|According to the employees, open communication is one benefit of the company's unique business structure. Photo courtesy W.L. Gore & Associates Inc.|
Upon hearing the words, “no bosses,” one would be forgiven for conjuring up images of cubicle-dwellers run amok, wearing flip-flops and accomplishing little. But to hear employees of W.L. Gore tell it, workplaces without bosses are the kinds of workplaces where more work actually gets done.
“I feel like the culture is one of Gore’s key competitive advantages,” says Bruce Steinhaus, PhD, a 14-year veteran of the company’s medical device operations. “It really boils down to a lot of individual accountability, in the sense that the associates, the people that work for Gore, truly are responsible for managing their own workload and [are] essentially accountable to the others on their team for that.”
“One of the key sayings we have here that I absolutely enjoy is the saying that, “If you’re not inventing it, making it, or selling it, you’re wasting your time,” says Steinhaus, who is based in the company’s facility in Flagstaff, AZ.
W.L. Gore has repeatedly earned plaudits for its unique, no-boss work environment; the company was No. 31 on Fortune magazine’s annual “Top 100 Companies to Work For” feature. All employees, no matter how long they’ve been with the company or how much they get paid, are addressed by the same title: associate. Instead of bosses, each associate has a
CEO: Terri Kelly
Key Products: Excluder AAA Endoprosthesis; Viabahn Endoprosthesis; Propaten Vascular Graft; Bio-A Tissue Reinforcement.
Annual Revenue: $2.96 billion (FY11)
sponsor, who helps guide and mentor the employee. Instead of a rigid, hierarchical chain of command, associates operate according to a lattice structure, which allows them the flexibility to seek help or assistance from the person best-suited to help or assist them.
“That helps us to be open, to innovate, to solve problems quickly, by going to associates with the most knowledge,” says Josh Covington, who has been at Gore’s plant in Flagstaff, AZ for six years.
“We work hard because we feel it gives us that competitive advantage over other corporations to solve problems in the best way, the most innovative way,” Covington says.
This may sound too good to be true. Indeed, Steinhaus recalled doubting a bit himself when he was considering taking a job there.
“I was a little skeptical when I’d read some of the articles,” Steinhaus says, “and I remember in my interview saying that if this is half of what I’ve read, I’m going to be tickled. And it has exceeded my expectations.”