Morning Star has grown to become the world’s largest producer of commercial tomato products, largely thanks to a highly effective and engaging 7-step process that drives effective self-management of workers, writes Dave Hanna
A recent discovery in the study of capillaries and cavities yields an interesting perspective on the dynamics of organisational culture, which provides a number of insights into channels for alignment and self-management from the Morning Star Tomatoes company.
Materials with tiny capillaries and cavities are widely used in filtration and separation to support our modern lifestyle. Until recently it has been impossible to create artificial capillaries with atomic-scale precision.
But now researchers Radha Boya and Nobel laureate Andre Geim have made the impossible possible. These researchers have removed strips in graphene (a flat layer of carbon one atom thick) to create Nano channels. These channels can carry fluids or gasses through them to accommodate a single molecule of water at a time, while filtering out salt, viruses, and bacteria that easily attach to water but are too big to fit through the 0.3 nanometer channel.
This discovery is a big breakthrough in filtration and is being studied by scientists all over the world, especially in China, India, and the UK.
“Colleagues take personal responsibility and hold themselves accountable for achieving ‘our’ mission”
What intrigues me about this study of atomic-scale design is the functional capacity to channel some elements in a targeted direction and to filter out undesirable elements. This is actually a very serviceable definition for shaping organisational culture. Consider for a moment what you might accomplish if you could channel the delivery of your products or services to be “extremely aligned” with stakeholder needs while filtering out “impurities.”
7 examples from Morning Star Tomatoes
Here are seven very tangible examples of “extreme alignment” from Morning Star Tomatoes, the world’s largest producer of commercial tomato products:
1. A stakeholder channel should align all associates to consistently fulfill ever-evolving stakeholder needs. At Morning Star: colleagues are self-managing professionals, initiating communications and the coordination of their activities with fellow colleagues, customers, suppliers, and fellow industry participants, absent directives from hierarchy.
2. A mission channel should build a common sense of mission so that associates instinctively channel their efforts to deliver it. At Morning Star: colleagues take personal responsibility and hold themselves accountable for achieving “our” mission.
3. A decision channel should structure decisions to be made at the point of action. It shapes personal accountability and filters out bureaucratic layers and unnecessary time delays. At Morning Star: teams manage their entire process from crop production to delivery to the processing plants. They are responsible for their work efficiencies, product freshness, quality – and all business metrics. They have no bosses.
4. Functional channels should channel (1) individual efforts toward functional excellence and (2) group efforts toward a synergistic free flow of 360° knowledge and experience. At Morning Star: multifunctional teams are the norm and they have the same operational responsibilities for their work as individual teams have – both without directions from a hierarchy.
“All should learn they must subordinate some self-interests for the greater good”
5. Team member channels should help members learn how to align diverse needs, skills, and responsibilities. All should learn they must subordinate some self-interests for the greater good. At Morning Star: each employee writes a “Colleague Letter Of Understanding” (CLOU) in collaboration with the colleagues with whom they work. It includes these items:
- Personal Commercial Mission (PCM): the primary guiding light for a person’s contribution.
- Activities: key activities to fulfill the PCM.
- Stepping stones: measurements to monitor activities and PCM.
- Time commitment: estimate of time required to fulfill the PCM.
- Colleagues’ Agreement to the CLOU
6. A motivation channel: should shape organisational culture so that motivation flows toward commitments while filtering out “distractions.” At Morning Star: 1800 of the 2000 employees are seasonal employees who work there just a few months each year. Approximately 97 percent return every year due to the team culture, opportunities to broaden their skills, authentic leadership responsibilities, and their strong sense of accountability and commitment to the mission.
7. Innovation Channel: At Morning Star: they emphasise innovation and aim to be a major force for developing and implementing new and improved technology in their industry.
Try your own hand at designing organisational elements and culture to channel efforts on what will keep your company afloat and filter out the multitude of traditions that distract you from higher performance.