Would the type of environment created by this company be effective in all companies?
W.L. Gore and Associates has a unique organizational structure. There are no directors, line managers, operatives, or secretaries. All the company’s employees are referred to as “associates” and share decision-making authority. The cooperative spirit of this company arises from a unique structure with no fixed hierarchy, few titles, and no formal job descriptions. Any “associate” can speak directly to any other without going through a chain of command. Together, the 6,000 associates own the company. Each worker at Gore enjoys broad discretion to make minor decisions. Bigger ones – hiring and firing, setting compensation – are made by committees whose members constantly shift with the demands of the business. Anyone can start a new project simply by persuading enough people to go along with the idea. Even Bob Gore, chair and son of the founders, has his compensation set by a committee.
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The corporate culture and environment that has been created at W. L. Gore and Associates would not be effective at all kinds of companies or organizations. It is likely to be effective only at firms like Gore, which are based on intellectual and creative work. At a firm that was more involved in low-skill work that requires less thought, this sort of environment would be less effective.
When a firm’s work consists mainly of thought and creativity, an open corporate environment like this would be ideal. Such an environment would allow employees to achieve the maximum possible creativity. An employee who had an idea would be able to speak to any other employee who might be able to help with that idea or who might have a use for that idea. At a firm that makes its money by having ideas, this is vitally important.
At a firm that did not make its money through ideas, this environment would be much less ideal. Such a firm needs more of a hierarchy to ensure that things will be done exactly correctly and consistently. When making products that need to be made in an exact and consistent way, it is much more important to have hierarchy and set structures.