Thursday, March 10, 2011


In 1978, International Harvester hired a consulting firm--Alexander Proudfoot--to change the very culture of the Company and bring it to a Demings-like organization. The Union believed that the firm was there to destroy the union.

Management people were required to attend 16 weeks of training sessions to train them in the "new business model". Ironically, I had just recently left the Mead Corporation where we had been inflicted with a similar consulting firm to change the "business model". There, each supervisor was taken in for interviews by the consultants and we were told to tell what was wrong with the Company and we were assured that all the answers would be held in the strictest confidence. As the first female manufacturing supervisor, I was given an extraordinary amount of time with the consultants.

The consultants admonished us NOT to discuss our interviews and their contents with any other management people but, of course, we did.

Mother always advised me to "keep your own counsel". I didn't believe for one moment that the firm was there to help us, as management personnel. I believed they were there to "weed out" people. Several of my colleagues asked what happened in my session and I replied that they'd asked me to tell them what was wrong with the company so that the Company would be able to be changed. The guys asked what I had said and I told them that I'd said that Mead was the greatest Company in the world and had given me a wonderful opportunity. One of the guys castigated me by saying, "We'll never get anything changed if you talk like that." Another mentioned that I was a sycophant (oh, no, that's MY word; he said I was a "brown-noser"). I was shocked and asked them, "Did you say anything negative?" They answered that they had told them everything that was wrong. I told him, "Well, I don't trust them to have my best interest in mind so I wasn't going to tell them that anything that was wrong!" Within the year of the consulting firm's Contract with Mead, both of those men had been terminated. Several other people were demoted or moved to other positions.

We were given the same spiel from the Alexander Proudfoot training staff: everything would be confidential with no repercussions. During my personal interview, I did not discuss my prior experience with a "consulting firm" although the first question was if I knew the purpose of the consulting firm. Our classes were held for 8 hours on Saturdays for 16 weeks in a row and there were 16 participants in my class. On the first day, we were each given a seed with instructions to plant the seed and at the end of the sessions one of us would receive a nice reward for having the best plant.

Today, I received an e-mail (see below) which is the same exercise given to us in 1978. I was awarded the prize and you will see WHY at the end of the exercise I was like JIM! My prize was a $100.00 gift certificate to Elder Beerman; I told my mother I would take her to Elder Beerman to pick out something nice and she told me to just spend it on myself. I promptly went there and bought something I always wanted--a Coach purse--which I still carry to this day!


A successful businessman was growing old and he knew that it was time to choose a successor to take over the business.

Instead of choosing one of his Directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together. He said, "It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO and I have decided to choose one of you." The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. "I am going to give each one of you a SEED today - one very special SEED--I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you."

He continued, "I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO." One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Every day, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn't have a plant growing and he felt like a failure.

Six months went by and there was still nothing growing in Jim's pot. He just knew that he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn't say anything to his colleagues; however, he just kept watering and fertilizing the soil. He so wanted the seed to grow. Finally, a year went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she told him that he should be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick to his stomach; it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few even felt sorry for him!

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the CEO. "Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!"

The CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the Chief Financial Officer to bring Jim to the front of the room. Jim was terrified. He thought, "The CEO knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!" When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed and Jim told him the story.

The CEO asked everyone to sit down except for Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, "Behold your next Chief Executive Officer! His name is Jim!" Jim couldn't believe it.

"How could he be the new CEO?" the others asked. Then the CEO said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead; it was not possible for them to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive Officer!"

* If you plant honesty, you will reap trust.

* If you plant goodness, you will reap friends.

* If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.

* If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment.

* If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective.

* If you plant hard work, you will reap success.

* If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation.

So, be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later.

1 comment:

Mona Lisa said...

I know that purse!