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Double Your Profits in Two Years or Less

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Individual Microcosm

Organization is the impersonal side of a company. But every organization is designed, staffed, operated and utilized by living human beings. People are the personal side. If the component organization has an unlimited capacity to energize and elevate work performance, the real source of that unlimited creative capacity is the people. Organization without people is an empty shell. Organization that regards human capital as a disposable, dispensable, replaceable resource is a dead-end. Those who direct its operations may be efficient managers, but they cannot be great leaders. The real index of great leadership is the capacity to generate and release human energy, to inspire people with a higher vision and values, to bring out their creativity and capacity for constant innovation, to motivate people for high performance because they feel that achievement is self-motivating, enjoyable and self-rewarding.

Every human being is a unique composite expression of the potentialities of the human race. And though we are all different from each other, we all have untapped skills, capacities, abilities and talents that can be brought to the surface and made available for gratifying self-fulfillment and fulfillment of the goals of the organization. Companies that achieve the highest level of success and sustain it over decades are those that have learned how to constantly foster the development and nurture the expression of people at all levels of the organization.

General Mills is 150-year-old company in a traditional industry. It began operating flour mills and gradually diversified into breakfast cereals, cake mixes and other processed, packaged foods. It is best known as the producer of Cheerios breakfast cereal, which has been a market leader since the 1930s. So when we went into our first interview at General Mills in 1984, I hardly expected what I found. Our first meeting was with a 24-year-old woman fresh out of business school in charge of the marketing plan for Cheerios. She was overflowing with energy, enthusiasm and excitement about what she was doing. She kept saying, “I am doing this. I am doing that.” Finally I interrupted her and, pointing upward, I asked, “What about them? What about top management?” She instantly replied, “Oh, they have final approval for our plans, but it’s really up to us to set the direction and evolve the strategy.” I was perplexed. Was it really possible that this company entrusts a multibillion dollar brand to a 24 year MBA? Later that day I put that question to the VP of Marketing. He laughed and said, “Yes and no.” We provide the guidelines, the targets, the structure and the tools and encourage our marketing teams to evolve innovative approaches to recreate the product year after year.” The cover of that month’s company newsletter depicted a brand manager flying through the office with a suitcase in hand. General Mills might be in a boring, traditional industry, but it has discovered the secret for unleashing the energy, imagination and skills of its people to continuously reinvent itself and its brands. It knows how to balance and integrate freedom and authority, creating a vibrant atmosphere and an endless source of energy for rejuvenation and growth. This remarkable capacity is the reason it has remained among the most admired food companies in America for decades. Today General Mills has more than 43,000 employees operating in more than 100 countries generating revenues of $18 billion and a net profit of $1.8 billion.

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