Gore Associates

In the book The Tipping Point they describe the organization called Gore Associates and their organization.  I found it fascinating and somewhat hard for me to comprehend.  The subject of the section was the Power of Context.  I would like to quote from the book.  "If you want groups to serve as incubators for contagious messages, ….we have to keep groups below the 150 Tipping Point."  "Gore Associates, a privately held, multimillion dollar high-tech firm that makes the water-resistant Gore-Tex fabric, as well Glide dental floss, semiconductors, etc.  At Gore there are no titles.  If you asked people who work there for their card, it will just have their name and underneath it the word "Associate,"  regardless of how much money they make or how much responsibility they have or how long they have been with the company.  People do not have bosses, they have sponsors – mentors – who watch out for their interests.  There are no organization charts, no budgets, no elaborate strategic plans.  Salaries are determined collectively.  Headquarters for the company is a low-sling, unpretentious red brick building.  All the offices are the same size and corners tend to be conference rooms.  When asked repeated of a person who was clearly a senior person, he finally said with a grin, "I am a meddler."   ….  Gore is unusual and and a clear well articulated philosophy.  It is a big establish company that is attempting to behave like a small entrepreneurial start-up." 

"Bill Gore, the late founder, seems to have stumbled on a strategy by trial and error.  "We found again and again that things get clumsy at a hundred and fifty,"  so 150 employees per plant became a company goal.  They do their long term planning by making parking lots for 150 cars.  When people start parking on the grass, it is time for a new plant."    I gather Hutterite communities have the same philosophy.

I also recall Magna Industries and their philosophy of small plants all competing for similar business.  At one stage Frank Stonach became less involved and his management decided to try to make a complete car and integrate the organization.  It was a disaster.  Frank came back and fired the bunch and got back to his old principle.  I do not know what the philosophy is now but that sure worked for Frank, who certainly has his own management style.  I also have heard that each plant was run by a tool and dye maker, which is where Frank started.

It really challenges my concept of organization and strategy.  I wonder is 150 is the magic number for consulting organizations.  I expect less that 150 is the number based on my experience.  However I know that most large consulting organizations become dysfunctional. 

Can you imagine working in an organization that roles worked like Gore Associates?  I should do more research and see what I can find out. 

  1. Jim Reply

    I am sure there has been research on Gore Associates. I will check it out.
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WL_Gore_and_Associates.
    Graham’s point was why I find the concept so difficult. I think our hierarchical family structure makes it difficult to conceive of other organizations structures. A cooperative type structure is so foriegn to our culture. I guess there is a name for the type of organization called Anarcho-socialism. See definition in wikipedia.

  2. Graham Boundy Reply

    Even if there is no org chart there is a org charts. I recall one company who never published an org chart. It was quite frustrating to try and have a working session with any person or group without excluding key players.
    I’d be interested in knowing what GORE’s attition and turn-over are like. If you constantly have people coming into and leaving the organization (like we do in the IT world) I think it would be very difficult to do it without some organizational hierarchy.
    Even if the CEO has a title like meddler or associate, everyone knows he’s the CEO.

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