Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. (3M) in Saint Paul, Minn., a diversified manufacturer with more than $13 billion in annual sales, has a longstanding reputation for empowering employees. Here is Chief Executive Officer Livio DeSimone's 10-point plan for making it work:
1) Give folks time to follow their muse--3M encourages technical employees to spend 15 percent of their work time on research projects of their choice. The result: products like Post-it Notes, which bring more than $100 million of revenues into the company every year.
2) Create a culture of cooperation that ignores departmental boundaries.
3) Measure results--3M has specific expectations for sales, earnings, market share, and new products.
4) Encourage communication between company employees and company customers.
5) Stage celebrations to recognize employees--The pinnacle of employee awards at 3M is induction into the Carlton Society, the company's hall of fame.
6) Encourage managers to be honest, even if it means saying no--Employees are strongly encouraged to submit new ideas at 3M, but if the ideas don't make sense, then managers are expected to reject them directly and honestly.
7) Reward long-term employment--There are few layoffs at 3M and most managers have been with the company for 25 years or longer.
8) Give high-level managers international assignments to round out their experience--About 75 percent of 3M's top executives have lived abroad on assignment.
9) Increase research and development spending on a regular basis to spur employees to new heights of innovation--3M has upped the ante on R&D spending each year for the past two decades.
10) Don't always listen to Wall Street--In the '80s, when security analysts advised heavy borrowing to leverage the company, DeSimone opted for a safer course.
Action Teams One of the ways 3M management empowers employees is through interdisciplinary action teams. According to 3M corporate scientist David Braun, a successful action team must have a specific charter, be highly focused, and be short-term/high-energy.
Action team membership isn't left to chance. Candidates are thoroughly interviewed and only those who show flexibility and cooperative behavior are brought on board.
In addition, each action team is assigned a sponsor from senior management. It's the sponsor's job to serve as a bridge between the team and top management and to help remove roadblocks that may impede the team's progress. Team size is kept to a manageable 8 to 10 individuals.
Planning and team training are important. People often have to learn new skills to function successfully in a team environment. At 3M, members of action teams participate in a special three-day training session to work on interpersonal skills, conflict resolution techniques, and the basics of how to conduct meetings.
* Allow employees to follow their own paths to success--People do their best when management loosens the reins. Don't second-guess them or micro-manage everything they do or say.
* Promote the use of teams to energize the work force--Teams produce results only if they are empowered to act autonomously.
* Institutionalize innovation--When a creative idea yields good results, try to duplicate it company-wide.