I am grateful that I had Chapman’s book “on the shelf” (in the electronic reader) to read. I had just finished Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book, Leadership BS, and was pretty down based on what I had read. What a delight and contrast, to pick up Chapman’s and Sisodia’s book. It has renewed my faith in human nature.
In this well-written book, Chapman and Sisodia trace the journey Barry-Wehmiller made from a company focused on KPI’s to a company focused on building a Business Family – not a family business, but a business family dedicated to the sustainability of the business using the philosophy of taking care of people.
Certainly, the company isn’t perfect; they still get it wrong sometimes. But the difference is they correct
course when they find out what can be better, admit their mistakes, and recommit themselves to the path of compassionate leadership.
Barry-Wehmiller figured out that to actively manage the culture, they would have to write down, teach, enforce, and live the values they wished the organization to embrace. They did that at every turn by creating the Barry-Wehmiller University and by being patient building back trust with employees.
Most impressive to me is that the company, besides growing through becoming more effective internally, has grown through acquisition. The acquisitions they made were of product compatible companies but ones who were “on the edge” of insolvency. Invariably, the culture of the acquired companies was the typical command and control and the unsafe environment with no trust at all between and among leaders and employees. With patience and the consistent application of the B-W way, the companies soon began to improve and thrive.
It is telling that Simon Sinek (author and educator) found B-W to be an excellent case study and had much praise for the company and this book. In the foreword, Sinek made the following statement:
“I’ve since taken others to see Barry-Wehmiller’s offices and factories, and the results are always the same. People are blown away by what Chapman has created. As for me? I can no longer be accused of being an idealist if what I imagine exists in reality.
It begs the question, if what I talk and write about can exist in reality, if every C-level executive acknowledges the importance and value of people, why is Bob Chapman and Barry-Wehmiller the exception rather than the rule? The reason, once again, is pressure. . .”
The root cause of employee disengagement is our typical command and control business structure. The pressure to “hit the numbers,” even in private businesses but certainly in public entities, is enormous and there is no patience on the part of shareholders. Yet B-W has proven that we can have both excellent performance and a safe, trusting work environment.
Pfeffer does a great job telling it like it is and then misses the mark on realistic solutions. Chapman does an equally great job of telling it like it is (and was at B-W), and then not only provides a useful solution but proves that the solution is viable through the story of Barry-Wehmiller’s transformation.
I believe that if one reads and truly understands the content of three books — Start With Why, by Simon Sinek, Drive, by Daniel Pink and Turn the Ship Around! , by David Marquet — then builds a business based on the content of those books, then one will wind up with a truly unstoppable and sustainable business that will look a lot like the Barry-Wehmiller of today.
[Lightly edited on 9/2020 for our new website.]