Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family by Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia. Portfolio. 272 pages. 2015
I first heard of Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Companies (BW), a St. Louis based manufacturing organization, in Simon Sinek’s 2013 book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. Sinek writes the Foreword to this inspiring book about how BW does business. Sinek states that nearly every CEO says that their people matter. With Bob Chapman at BW, this is actually true.
The book is about “what happens when ordinary people throw away long accepted management practices and start operating from their deepest sense of right with a sense of profound responsibility for the lives entrusted to them”. It is the story of BW’s organizational and leadership culture, based around what they call “Truly Human Leadership”, and is sprinkled throughout with stories about the people and programs of BW.
Chapman tells his personal story – he grew up in Ferguson, Missouri. After his girlfriend got pregnant, he got serious about his education, getting his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Indiana, his MBA from the University of Michigan and his CPA. His father was the President of BW. He asked Bob to join the company, eventually reaching the position of Executive Vice President. He initially turned things around significantly and then went through a difficult nine months before there was a very successful public offering. Since that time, BW has acquired, or as they say it “adopted”, 80 other organizations.
The authors write that BW’s culture changed in 1997. That’s when BW’s “Guiding Principles of Leadership” were created. Those principles state that BW measures success by how they touch the lives of people.
BW aims to inspire behavior resulting in value creation. Trust is very important in their culture. They see leadership as stewardship. Leaders at BW are committed to helping team members find fulfilling and meaningful work.
The authors talk about business as family and discuss the similarities between parenting and leadership. They are concerned about not only how work impacts their team members but their team members’ families as well.
The authors discuss BW’s Lean (the core idea of lean is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste) journey. They added a human aspect to traditional Lean. While traditional Lean looks at eliminating waste, BW’s Lean model looks at eliminating frustration. One of the aspects of continuous improvement is the Kaizen (Japanese for improvement) event. I found it interesting that I was reading about BW’s experience with Kaizen on the same day that I was participating in a Kaizen event in the organization I work at.
BW’s Living Legacy of Leadership is the convergence of the Guiding Principles of Leadership and Lean. To date, BW has completed 500 process improvement efforts, involving more than 3,000 of their team members.
The authors state that we shouldn’t judge an organization’s culture during the good times. I found of particular interest how BW did business during the 2008-09 business downturn. They approached it by saying “What would a caring family do”? They implemented across the board measures, so there was shared sacrifice. They rebounded within 9 months and went on to record success in 2010.
Part two of the book is about applying the BW Playbook in your organization. They authors discuss BW’s “Ten Commandments of Truly Human Leadership” and their BW Leadership Institute.
Their Ten Commandments of Truly Human Leadership are:
- Begin every day with a focus on the lives you touch.
- Know that leadership is the stewardship of the lives entrusted to you.
- Embrace leadership practices that send people home each day safe, healthy, and fulfilled.
- Align all actions to an inspirational vision of a better future.
- Trust is the foundation of all relationships; act accordingly.
- Look for goodness in people and recognize and celebrate it daily.
- Ask no more or less of anyone than you would of your own child.
- Lead with a clear sense of grounded optimism.
- Recognize and flex to the uniqueness of everyone.
- Always measure success by the way you touch the lives of people.
The authors state that visioning is the most powerful tool in leadership. Their version of empowerment is called “Responsible Freedom”, which requires two-way trust. Recognition and celebration are also important to their culture. Important to the BW culture is caring, inspiring and celebrating.
BW has a “Truly Human Leadership” blog and podcast. You can find out more about them here.