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    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    Engines of Democracy

    Engines of Democracy by Charles Fishman, Fast Company:

    The 170-plus people who work at this plant try to make perfect jet engines. And they come close. On average, one-quarter of the engines that GE/Durham sends to Boeing have just a single defect -- something cosmetic, such as a cable not lined up right, or a scratch on a fan case. The other three-quarters are, in fact, perfect.
    GE/Durham's continuous-feedback culture -- "We call this the feedback capital of the world," says Paula Sims -- means that while in one sense it's true that no one here has a boss, the opposite is also true: "I have 15 bosses," says Keith McKee. "All of my teammates are my bosses." No one is exempt. "Not long after I started here," says Sims, "an employee came to me and said, 'Paula, you realize that you don't need to follow up with us to make sure we're doing what we agreed to do. If we say we'll do something, we'll do it. You don't need to micromanage us.' I sat back and thought, 'Wow. That's so simple. I'm sending the message that I don't trust people, because I always follow up.' I took that to heart. This was a technician, and I had been at the plant less than 30 days. I appreciated that he felt comfortable enough to tell me this. And I thought, 'This really is a different place.'"


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