Morning Star Tomato Processing Plant Has No Managers, Very High Level of Employee Independence

First I thought this would probably be some kind of niche hippy-dippy outfit, but the company turns out to be the biggest tomato processor in the world, processing 40% of California's processed-tomato crop. (That is, tomatoes not bound for sale as whole tomatoes but as sauce or salsa or whatever.)

It's a pretty interesting approach to management which seems to work.

Employees decide how their skill sets can best help Morning Star succeed and then develop their own lists of roles and responsibilities in collaboration with their colleagues. If Morning Star employees want to purchase new equipment, they don't ask managers for permission. Rather, they discuss potential purchases with colleagues who will be affected by the purchase and, if others with expertise support the decision, they simply buy what they need. There is no R&D department at Morning Star. There are, however, strong incentives for every employee to innovate. Workers who successfully innovate don't receive new titles. They earn the respect of their colleagues in addition to financial compensation.

Some of this sounds like exaggeration: Obviously there are some bosses. Someone, after all, looks at your productivity and decides to give you a raise (or fire you).

Still, interesting.


Posted by: Ace at 04:23 PM



Comments

1 And where is this plant?

Posted by: Nevergiveup at December 27, 2012 04:26 PM (79ueO)

2 If Morning Star employees want to purchase new equipment, they don't ask
managers for permission. Rather, they discuss potential purchases with
colleagues who will be affected by the purchase and, if others with
expertise support the decision, they simply buy what they need.



Yeah, I'll bet.

Having totally uninvested voters make decisions about which shiny things to buy got California its High Speed Rail.

Posted by: Cicero (@cicero) at December 27, 2012 04:26 PM (QKKT0)

3 This is far too entrepreneurial an idea for Kalifornia. They must be destroyed. Or unionized. Whatevs.

Posted by: Jaws at December 27, 2012 04:27 PM (4I3Uo)

4
See "Lord of the Flies".
How did that work out.

Posted by: Andrew at December 27, 2012 04:27 PM (KR2gI)

5 "Tomatoe."

Posted by: Dan Quayle at December 27, 2012 04:28 PM (QKKT0)

6 So I was thinking Mabel, I think we all need .357's or at the very least, Glocks. Then if we've missed a tomato that is not up to Morning Star standards, and it looks like it's getting away down the line, we shoot it.

I think we'll see quality go up, along with efficiency. Let's take this idea to the innovation committee. I'll split the bonus with you.

Posted by: Opus An Arcus at December 27, 2012 04:30 PM (M6+7x)

7 Tomahto.

Plebes.

Posted by: Anna Wintour at December 27, 2012 04:30 PM (EcoLV)

8 Don't report any positives. Obama will "improve" them out of existence .

Posted by: FenelonSpoke at December 27, 2012 04:30 PM (VLe4D)

9 I work at a plant where employees are expected to be "self directing" Too bad it's a union shop, because "self directing" for a shit ton of my fellow employees means do nothing but fuck around for the hours of voluntary OT and double time they put in

Posted by: Nightwitch at December 27, 2012 04:31 PM (FNJYG)

10 This is kind of the way Southwest Airlines was set up at the beginning. Employee involvement in management and profit sharing seems to work well where it's tried. Keeps the unions away too.

Posted by: Soona at December 27, 2012 04:31 PM (Zlj4E)

11 "in collaboration with their fellow employees" - those are the keywords.. it's management by committee, that's all. Nobody can just decide to do whatever the fuck they want.

Posted by: Chi-Town Jerry at December 27, 2012 04:31 PM (f9c2L)

12 Obiously not a union shop. How did that happen in California?

Posted by: georgeofthedesert at December 27, 2012 04:32 PM (Eq2MX)

13 Is the place union or non-union?

Posted by: Nevergiveup at December 27, 2012 04:33 PM (79ueO)

14 Most tomatoes you find in the stores are from Mexico or Florida.

Posted by: Vic at December 27, 2012 04:33 PM (53z96)

15 Come to Cali, where you can outsource your business's management to the government!

Posted by: franken ham bonus bucks, fair tender at December 27, 2012 04:34 PM (I88Jc)

16 Workers who successfully innovate don't receive new titles. They earn the respect of their colleagues in addition to financial compensation.

Call me what ever you want. As long as they paycheck doesn't bounce. First time it does, don't bother calling me again.

Posted by: rickb223 at December 27, 2012 04:34 PM (GFM2b)

17 There are, however, strong incentives for every employee to innovate.
Workers who successfully innovate don't receive new titles.


Duchess of Tomato and Related Paste Products?

Royal Order of the Steam-Powered Vegetable Sorter?

Posted by: Cicero (@cicero) at December 27, 2012 04:35 PM (QKKT0)

18
Article from Reason.com

Some of this sounds like exaggeration...




Ya think?

Full disclosure: Morning Star founder Chris Rufer is a supporter of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason TV.

Posted by: Laurie David's Cervix at December 27, 2012 04:36 PM (kdS6q)

19 Someone somewhere, is counting the beans (or tomatos)and making sure that productivity is enhanced with each idea. More production means more money is made and more wealth is produced by the company. If, perchance, the company is publicly held, it produces dividends for the shareholders.

All along the way, if the company makes more money, it pays more taxes, which is good for the government.

This short lesson has been brought to you by Capitalism. Politicians, please have someone explain this to you, preferably using small words and short sentences so you can try to understand the concept.

Posted by: BackwardsBoy, who did not vote for this shit. at December 27, 2012 04:37 PM (yiIja)

20 3 This is far too entrepreneurial an idea for Kalifornia. They must be destroyed. Or unionized. Whatevs.
Posted by: Jaws at December 27, 2012 04:27 PM (4I3Uo)


I'm going to be visiting them for a photo op.

Posted by: Barky the Good Luck Choom at December 27, 2012 04:37 PM (fWAjv)

21 Not surprising. Most orgs still employ the same tired hierarchical structure created in the 19th century. It's well-suited for the military, but in the private sector mainly serves to enrich the managers and stroke their egos.

Posted by: hannitys_hybrid at December 27, 2012 04:38 PM (zpqa2)

22 Ace's posts are all over the map today- I have nothing on this topic other than to say the best tomatoes on the planet come from Maryland's Eastern Shore. Please don't argue, because the science is settled.

Posted by: Jones in CO at December 27, 2012 04:39 PM (8sCoq)

23 They have three plants, all in CA which makes sense since they grow the tomatoes there, if they have water.

Posted by: Vic at December 27, 2012 04:40 PM (53z96)

24
Bullshit. Decent managers listen to their employees anyway. This is crapola and a fluff piece. Packing tomatos is a crappy job done by people who can't get a better job. That means low education, brains, ambition, illegal. Put all that together, and what do ya get? What you don't get is top drawer performance. They tell that bullshit to the press.

Posted by: maddogg at December 27, 2012 04:41 PM (OlN4e)

25 Yes. Leninism and autogestion work!

You Pubbies will never catch on.

Posted by: palooka at December 27, 2012 04:42 PM (aIA+k)

26 This fits well with the article Freakonomics published last week on a couple of studies of the value of coaching various sports. Basically, there is no value outside of recruiting. I would imagine the same goes here. With the right group of core employees this could work for just about any enterprise.

Posted by: Gristle Encased Head at December 27, 2012 04:44 PM (+lsX1)

27 Who signs off on the federal accountability reports? Who signs the payroll checks? Who signs off on the tax forms?

Posted by: mrp at December 27, 2012 04:44 PM (HjPtV)

28
This is kind of the way Southwest Airlines was set up at the beginning

Yes, and the shorts, boots, and good looking stews also helped.

Posted by: Velvet Ambition at December 27, 2012 04:44 PM (R8hU8)

29 I guarantee you one thing, when there is a serious lost time accident, fucking OSHA doesn't go looking for employees to hang and fine.

Posted by: maddogg at December 27, 2012 04:46 PM (OlN4e)

30 This company was mentioned in a "California drives away business" article in the last couple of days, but I can't find it. Does anyone know what the mention was about? I think (but I'm not sure) it was that they wanted to move - due to Cal's business climate - but couldn't because of need to be where the 'matoes are. The article was saying that soon those would be the only businesses left in California - those that can't move for whatever reason.

Posted by: Pentangle at December 27, 2012 04:46 PM (5lyof)

31 Gnu Open Source Tomatoes.

With the right workers, who are also stakeholders, it can work. When IBM couldn't make its Lexington KY plant profitable, they sold it to the employees.

We know the result of that sale as Lexmark.

Posted by: @PurpAv at December 27, 2012 04:49 PM (hPavS)

32 The problem with management-heavy, traditional hierarchical orgs is that, no matter how much they claim otherwise, the structure is mainly a "yes man" machine. Each manager's primary concern is sucking up to the one above him. Communication going upstream is only paid lipservice.

I've worked in a wide variety of orgs and this is universal, despite "good management" and management that claims to "listen." If the org is set up that way, it operates that way. It's human nature.

Posted by: hannitys_hybrid at December 27, 2012 04:49 PM (zpqa2)

33 The equipment that I usually need when working with a tomato is a slice of cheese and a hamburger.

I don't usually ask anybody either.

I'd start my own company except who would I ask about a health plan?

Posted by: ontherocks at December 27, 2012 04:50 PM (aZ6ew)

34 >I'd start my own company except who would I ask about a health plan?


Posted by: ontherocks at December 27, 2012 04:50 PM (aZ6ew)

here's your health plan: don't eat too many burgers

Posted by: Jones in CO at December 27, 2012 04:52 PM (8sCoq)

35 This sounds pretty hippy dippy and I don't really get it.

Posted by: Entropy at December 27, 2012 04:52 PM (TULs6)

36 I'm guessing there is a probationary period in your contract so that if you are too traditional, and just want to sit around and do as little as possible, your colleagues can cut you loose quickly and with little legal fuss. Most people who work hard really resent the guys in their department who do almost nothing, so I can see that working. Sort of Lord of the Flies, but in a more genial, productive context. Like when The Children of the Corn start closing their circle around you............(gulp)

Rats. Now I've creeped myself out.

Posted by: Pentangle at December 27, 2012 04:57 PM (5lyof)

37 The problem with management-heavy, traditional hierarchical orgs is
that, no matter how much they claim otherwise, the structure is mainly a
"yes man" machine.


The ones that work, seek to flatten their organization. GM at one time had 25 levels of management between grunt and CEO.

IBM actively seeks to keep that number around 8 and doesn't always tamp down the renegades. The birth of the PC in Boca was essentially a renegade operation, and Armonk left it alone until it became a big business a few years later.

Posted by: @PurpAv at December 27, 2012 05:02 PM (hPavS)

38
I read the article...and didn't see the subject of 'profitability' even mentioned.

My guess is, that this company is For Sale.
This looks like a puff piece to enhance the saleability of the company.

Getting rid of a layer of management is good.
Giving employees more responsibility is good.
But the company is the one who still bears all the liability for whatever happens...and for the quality of the product.

Posted by: wheatie at December 27, 2012 05:06 PM (K4wCe)

39 Read up on Nucor Steel. They've been doing this since the early 70s, and are the most profitable steelmaker in the world.

There are four levels of "management" between the grunt in the mill and the CEO. And ever grunt in every mill has the CEO's office phone number and email address.

It might not be the best place in the world to work, but it's gotta be close!

Posted by: Retired Spook at December 27, 2012 05:06 PM (cgPPn)

40 4
See "Lord of the Flies".
How did that work out.
Posted by: Andrew at December 27, 2012 04:27 PM (KR2gI)




Patience, human. I'm not done yet.

Posted by: Lucifer, aka Morning Star at December 27, 2012 05:13 PM (c2oll)

41 But the company is the one who still bears all the liability for whatever happens...and for the quality of the product.

The good companies encourage their employees to "empower" (I hate that word) themselves to make that happen.

I empowered myself at IBM all the time (to the consternation of some who preferred stasis), but I got effing results with my renegade guerrilla tactics and millions of dollars in manufacturing costs were saved, and product performance benchmarked visibly better.

Basically, you gotta not give a shit about "managing your career".

Posted by: @PurpAv at December 27, 2012 05:16 PM (hPavS)

42 Actually, now that you mention it, California is indeed trying to destroy them.

Tomatoes. Emissions. Evil.

http://tinyurl.com/bp44cvc

Posted by: PJ at December 27, 2012 05:23 PM (ZWaLo)

43 A set of companies without a managerial class would be--as a set--more capable of market-adaptive fitness than a set of "traditional" corporate-hierarchical companies. That's first-day-of-non-leftist-economics-class stuff.

(Also, it's kind of the idea behind the U.S. Constitution.)

But many individual companies in the set would instantly go to shit, and the reaction to that would be--and is, in real-life examples, e.g., "Silicon Valley"--a re-assertion of tradition. Because its results are more knowable.

And more shitty. But that's not really important to anybody. Only to everybody.

Posted by: oblig. at December 27, 2012 05:24 PM (cePv8)

44
This same company was mentioned in an article on California's Cap and Trade legislation. In a few years they will be required to "purchase" carbon credits to allow them to burn hydrocarbons.

You know, the gas that supplies the heat and hot water that they use for canning and pasteurizing the product. And to sterilize the production lines.

But increasing the cost of production with "carbon credits" has no effect on the bottom line or viabilty. After all, there is no competition from the southeast US and south of the border.

Posted by: rd at December 27, 2012 05:24 PM (zLp5I)

45
Basically, you gotta not give a shit about "managing your career".
Posted by: @PurpAv at December 27, 2012 05:16 PM (hPavS) But the Ass kiss brigade is still there.

Posted by: rd at December 27, 2012 05:27 PM (zLp5I)

46 Goldratt would be proud. . . it's like a crowd sourced POOGI.

Posted by: David C. at December 27, 2012 05:29 PM (ZtMso)

47
41 But the company is the one who still bears all the liability for whatever happens...and for the quality of the product.


The good companies encourage their employees to "empower" (I hate that word) themselves to make that happen.

I empowered myself at IBM all the time (to the consternation of some who preferred stasis), but I got effing results with my renegade guerrilla tactics and millions of dollars in manufacturing costs were saved, and product performance benchmarked visibly better.

Basically, you gotta not give a shit about "managing your career".

-----------

You probably made the end product better than the execs wanted, PurpAv.

'Planned Obsolescence' is still a part of most manufacturer's agenda.
You don't want to put out a product that is so good, that you will be competing with it...for years to come.

Posted by: Mr. Wu... at December 27, 2012 05:37 PM (K4wCe)

48 Uh oh....off Mr. Wu sock.

Posted by: wheatie at December 27, 2012 05:37 PM (K4wCe)

49 Without bosses and layers of management, who can hold "empowerment" presentations, and encourage their friends to go to the latest Tony Robbins seminar, and a hundred other timewasters?

Posted by: CAC at December 27, 2012 05:55 PM (gKr+t)

50 I have a job because I point out when things are wrong. I also do everything I can to make it right and make everyone else work better, harder, faster.

I love when someone discovers I've been managing a process knowing it was a need years before anyone else saw a need.

Posted by: SmileyNH at December 27, 2012 06:06 PM (hlZx/)

51 Gaming alert, sounds a bit like what Valve is doing.

http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/abrash/valve-how-i-got-here-what-its-like-and-what-im-doing-2/

"If most of the value is now in the initial creative act, there’s little benefit to traditional hierarchical organization that’s designed to deliver the same thing over and over, making only incremental changes over time. What matters is being first and bootstrapping your product into a positive feedback spiral with a constant stream of creative innovation. Hierarchical management doesn’t help with that, because it bottlenecks innovation through the people at the top of the hierarchy, and there’s no reason to expect that those people would be particularly creative about coming up with new products that are dramatically different from existing ones – quite the opposite, in fact. So Valve was designed as a company that would attract the sort of people capable of taking the initial creative step, leave them free to do creative work, and make them want to stay. Consequently, Valve has no formal management or hierarchy at all.

Now, I can tell you that, deep down, you don’t really believe that last sentence. I certainly didn’t when I first heard it. How could a 300-person company not have any formal management? My observation is that it takes new hires about six months before they fully accept that no one is going to tell them what to do, that no manager is going to give them a review, that there is no such thing as a promotion or a job title or even a fixed role (although there are generous raises and bonuses based on value to the company, as assessed by peers). That it is their responsibility, and theirs alone, to allocate the most valuable resource in the company – their time – by figuring out what it is that they can do that is most valuable for the company, and then to go do it."

Posted by: SK at December 27, 2012 06:09 PM (R2hxL)

52 Its just like the Mondragon Corporation - they've been doing that very successfully for decades.

Posted by: Aquinas Dad at December 27, 2012 06:58 PM (lcWKQ)

53 "Obiously not a union shop. How did that happen in California?"

Doesn't have to be unionized, it's a commune.

Posted by: apotheosis at December 27, 2012 07:46 PM (xWk3U)

54 At Walmart, supposedly any employee can raise or lower prices, put things on sale, etc. (Keep in mind that the vast majority of employees probably would never even attempt this, so its quite safe to do.)

Giving people power and freedom to act often leads to surprising results. Most people don't just work for money, but they'd like some feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Posted by: Sexypig at December 27, 2012 08:29 PM (dZQh7)

55 "Without bosses and layers of management, who can hold "empowerment" presentations, and encourage their friends to go to the latest Tony Robbins seminar, and a hundred other timewasters?"

THIS.

A lot of management does nothing. The web and the internet is pushing stuff down and up.

Posted by: Sexypig at December 27, 2012 08:30 PM (dZQh7)

56 I work for the Ace Tomato Company.

Posted by: bobbymike at December 27, 2012 08:44 PM (wJSZn)

57 56
I work for the Ace Tomato Company.


Posted by: bobbymike at December 27, 2012 08:44 PM (wJSZn)


Every minute you don't tell us why you're here, I cut off a finger.

Posted by: Weirddave at December 27, 2012 09:32 PM (aH+zP)

58 0:59 smallest mountain range in the world.

40 gallon drum of tomato paste not pasteurized or sealed properly goes off like a ketchup IED.

That Kern's fruit juice you love? Floor has a trench drain auger and jose or bob muke the fruit medley into the trap and pump the pulpy effluent through a centrifuge.

Banana Strawberry, nom nom nom.

Posted by: 13times at December 28, 2012 04:23 AM (h6XiD)

59 And the petty comments and snobbery on display in this thread denigrating non unionized line workers? You'd almost think rank and file conservatives don't value a hard days -nights- work.

The stereotypical country club white bread republican jackass.

Get fucked.

Posted by: 13times at December 28, 2012 04:46 AM (h6XiD)






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