Center for Innovative Cultures

Helping organizations thrive by unleashing the talent, passion, and potential of people at work

The Cowman and the Business Owner

Here’s an interesting story, passed along to me by Julian Pace of Scottish Enterprise.

A farmer in Scotland raises, among other things, beef cattle. And so he has occasion to hire a “stockman.” When he hires a new stockman, he pays for a calf that the stockman chooses and gives it to him to raise on the farm. And he says, “Whenever you want, you can sell the animal, and whatever you sell it for, it is yours.”

The idea is to help the stockman develop a mindset that reflects the farmer’s mindset about cows. How do you grow them, nourish them, treat them? When do you sell them? How do you get the most value from your cow?

Essentially, the farmer is helping the cowman to think like an owner, to see beyond whatever box being a “stockman ” might mean for the new hire.

W. L. Gore & Associates tries to accomplish the same sense of ownership through its Associate Stock Ownership Program (ASOP). Morning Star stresses the need for each employee to think like an independent “business person.” I’m sure there are other ways that other organizations help their Associates get “the big picture” at the nitty-gritty level. In other words (to paraphrase Bill Gore), how “we provide goods and services that deliver good value in the free market places of the world.”

It is an important mind-shift. Do I see myself as an “employee” going about doing what others tell me to do, or do I see myself as an active agent, contributing to my own success, and the success of the Enterprise?

Come along, Bessie.