Category Archives: Happy companies

Book review: Everybody Matters by Bob Chapman


This is simply one of the best new business books I’ve read in a LONG time.

What if you ran your organization based on actually, genuinely caring for every single person in it? How would that inform strategy and leadership and how would it affect employees and the bottom line?

Bob Chapman’s leadership at Barry Wehmiller shows what that looks like and it is amazing.

Barry Wehmiller is essentially in the business of buying struggling production companies around the world and making them happier and more productive by introducing their processes and culture. They have 8,000 employees in 100 locations around the world in a large variety of businesses and they’re profitable and growing fast.

In this short speech, Bob Chapman explains their leadership philosophy:

The book contains a ton of powerful lessons that any workplace could learn from, but for me, these were the 2 most powerful things in the book.

1: Performance focus – with people first.
Of course the company cares about performance, but they realize that people come first. Chapman shares the story of what happened when a lean consultant came to do a presentation:

We scheduled a kickoff meeting in Green Bay with a group of senior leaders to learn about Lean and begin our continuous-improvement journey.

On the first afternoon, a consultant gave an opening presentation on Lean. After forty-five minutes, I stood up and walked out of the room in frustration. The presentation was all about justifying bringing Lean tools into an organization because they help add to the bottom line and get more out of people. “This will help you get more out of people.”

That’s when I left the room.

Brian followed nervously after me, glancing back to see if the presenter was still speaking.

“So, what’s going on?”

With fire in my voice, I said, “Brian, we are never going to have a Lean journey like that in our organization. We are not going to suck the life out of people and take advantage of them in that way. We are going to build a Lean culture focused on people or we’re not going to do it at all.”

I had made it clear that our version of Lean was to be about people.

Too many CEOs would never even catch that. They are steeped in the idea that results come first and processes like Lean are used as a tool for that purpose.

At Barry Wehmiller, Lean has become a tool to make work more fun and meaningful for the employees. And that in turn drives better results, than a direct results focus.

2: No layoffs
Your values are tested in hard times. It’s a lot easier to be nice and appreciative and people focused when the business is profitable but when revenue takes a hit and your company is losing money that’s when you get a chance to show if you take your values seriously of if they’re just pretty words that you don’t really mean.

In the book’s most interesting chapter (for me at least) Chapman discusses what happened when the recession hit them in 2008. They lost a large amount of business and were faced with massive pressure from their bank to cut costs.

Most companies around the world would not hesitate for a second before enacting layoffs. It’s just what you do, despite the fact that evidence shows it’s actually bad for business.

Chapman instead worked hard to come up with a plan that would ensure the company’s survival without laying off a single person – which they did.

The upshot

I HIGHLY recommend this book. It’s a great read and shares not only a great business case but also Chapman’s personal story which is interesting in itself.

The book shows that happy workplaces can exist in any industry (even production) and that you can systematically transform bad, failing workplaces into happy successful ones. Provided you do so with some good structure, great leadership and the basic idea that people deserve to be treated well at work.

Related posts

Welcome. Coffee?

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This is not a coffee shop – this is the reception at one of our clients in Denmark.

They can greet you, get you a visitor’s badge and notify the employee your meeting with. And while you wait for them to come meet you, they can also whip up an excellent cappuccino or a flat white.

Employees can also have informal meetings in the café and buy coffee cheaply using their ID cards or an app on their phones.

I saw something similar at the Coca-Cola HQ in Atlanta.

I like this kind of thing because it breaks down the formality of the reception area and makes it more welcoming and interesting. It gives visitors a better first impression and provides employees with a more relaxed setting.

Does your workplace have something similar?

Tim Dorsett: Top 10 Tips from Innocent Drinks

Last week we had our annual conference on happiness at work and it went insanely well.

As always we will share the speeches online and here’s the first one. Tim Dorsett works at Innocent Drinks. His titel is Office MANgel and his job is to make sure that people at Innocent Drinks do great work and go home happy.

In his inspiring presentation he shares the top 10 things he’s done to make sure that happen.

Herb Kelleher: I think people should have fun at work

I stumbled on this interview with Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines and it is all kinds of awesome.

From the interview:

Well, I think people should have fun at work. It should be an enjoyable part of their life. They should gain psychic satisfaction from it.

I think most of us enjoy fun, and why not at work as well as at play? And so we’ve always encouraged people to be themselves, not to be robotic, not to be automatons. We don’t expect you to surrender your natural personality when you join Southwest Airlines. We want you to have some fun, we want you to have psychic satisfaction from your job. It’s not just about money, it’s also how you feel about what you’re doing.

We want people to be recognized, participated, diligent and creative. And you can’t ask people to be someone other than themselves and have that kind of creativity and dedication and participation. So, we liberate people at work.

Go see the whole thing.

The CEO who made pancakes

From the workshop

A few weeks ago I did a workshop for a pharmaceutical company in Iceland called Medis as part of their 30 year anniversary and strategy kick-off. As you can see, they kinda liked it :) The guy in the front row in the blue suit is their CEO Valur Ragnarsson.

Now, as we all know a workshop itself changes nothing so we always work with our clients to come up with a plan that will actually make a difference in the workplace. As part of that plan, I challenged Valur to come up with something he could do that would be fun, easy and visible – just to show people that he is committed to creating a happy workplace.

And a few days later he sent me these pics where he’s making fresh waffles and pancakes for his employees:

medis 1

medis 3medis 2What an awesome idea :)

I asked Valur how he liked the experience and here’s what he said:

I thoroughly enjoyed it – the biggest joy I actually got out of observing the reaction of the colleagues !

FYI we did not announce anything but simply showed up in the corridor without notice and took people pleasantly bysurprise….. now it will boil down to a plan and team supporting this (which we have in place already btw).

The only problem was that the smoke alarm kept going off, so they had to temporarily disable it :)

medis 4

Well done, Valur!

Just to be clear: We’re not saying that you can turn an unhappy workplace into a happy one, by having the CEO make pancakes :)

What we’re saying is that upper management can support the process of creating a happy workplace by doing something fun and unexpected that shows employees that they are committed to the goal and willing to go a little bit outside of their comfort zone.

Get to know new employees

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In the last two months we have doubled the size of our company. We used to be three but we have added two interns and one full-time employee, who are working on some really cool projects for us.

Basically, Thomas, Nanna and Sofia in the picture above are our research department. We call them Woohoo Labs :)

Any time you add people to a team, it’s essential to get to know each other. The best tool we know for that is Personality Poker, so of course we played a game and ended up learning a lot about ourselves and each other.

2014-08-12 11.40.06Here are the personalities of everyone in the team:

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No matter which tool you use, it’s important to get to know the people you work with – both their professional skills and their personalities.

How do you do it? How does your team welcome new members?

What makes Zappos a happy workplace?

I’ve previously written about US online retailer Zappos and what makes them such a happy workplace.

In this video I talk to their Director of HR Hollie Delaney and Jamie Naughton who is Speaker of the House and we especially focus on the Zappos culture which permeates every aspect of running the company.

I also ask them how weird they are – but there’s a point to that :-)