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The Pet Food Industry - Gainsburgers!



 
 
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  #1  
Old April 13th 05, 08:38 AM
Gainsburger via CatKB.com
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Default The Pet Food Industry - Gainsburgers!

Management Bites Dog Food Factory
A story of management resistance to
employee involvement and self-direction
by Art Kleiner


It started out as an experiment in workplace democracy and set performance
records. So why did the bosses want to shut it down?

This is the story of an idea so powerful that management couldn't kill it.
An idea rooted in a factory that four different companies have owned,
enjoyed great results from, and then tried to shut down---only to have the
idea bite management back.

The idea is self-governing, high-performance teams---the stuff of the now-
back-in-vogue socio-technical movement. The place is a dog food plant,
where the idea was first tried, flourished, and then went through
successive owners who couldn't decide which side of the idea they were on.
The story dates back to 1966.

One morning, in an isolated warehouse at a Gaines dog food plant in
Kankakee, Illinois, a 20-year-old nightshift worker was found bound to a
column with packaging tape. He was unhurt, but he couldn't get free. Once
discovered, he was immediately cut down. The question was: What to do next?
The workers who'd assaulted their colleague couldn't be punished because of
union rules. And Lyman Ketchum and Ed Dulworth, the two senior managers in
the plant, didn't want to punish them. Labor-management relations were
already on the brink of explosion, in part a result of the unexpected
success of Gainesburgers, which had pushed the decrepit facility to operate
at three-times capacity. Instead of "kicking ass and taking names" as some
supervisors suggested, Ketchum and Dulworth opted for a more radical---and
more productive---course: a sociotechnical pilot project.

The pair took their pitch for the workplace of the future to corporate
management. "People have 'ego' needs," Dulworth argued. "They want self-
esteem, a sense of accomplishment, autonomy, increasing knowledge and
skill, and data on their performance."

Their idea: "unlearn" every traditional practice and design a plant from
scratch to capitalize on that aspect of human nature. Although decidedly
skeptical, a General Foods vice president uttered the fateful words: "Go
ahead, you are free to fail." What emerged was an experiment housed in a
gleaming white silo-shaped plant on the Kansas prairie in Topeka. Sections
of the plant painted in bright colors became natural centers where teams
gravitated to compare notes---or to thrash out differences. There were no
supervisors, only teams and team members who controlled plant operations.
They hired new members, assigned shifts, set hours, and redesigned the
placement of machinery. Everyone rotated through a wide variety of jobs.
Significantly, they shared freely in information about the plant's finances
and cash flow.

Without the overhead of middle managers, with an astonishingly low 2%
absenteeism rate, and with a level of involvement bordering on ownership,
the Topeka plant set performance records at General Foods. It became an
example of the next-generation workplace: curious executives and business
reporters lined up for tours in such volumes that Dulworth began charging
admission. But as the limelight shined brighter, General Foods worried
about the glare. Corporate managers withdrew their support and declared the
experiment "out of control."

Ketchum and Dulworth were unceremoniously pushed out of the company. A new
plant manager arrived with his marching orders: "Cut out this missionary
crap." Too late. The system had already taken on a life of its own. It
seeped into the design of the new canned dog food plant next door.

In 1984, General Foods sold its pet food business to the Anderson Clayton
conglomerate. In Topeka, the team structure persisted without management
cultivation.

By 1986, when Quaker Oats bought all of Anderson Clayton, the Gaines dog
food plant was the crown jewel of the acquisition. But Quaker made no
attempt to extend the Topeka system anywhere else in its organization.

Then in March 1995, when Heinz acquired Quaker, it looked as if the new
owners might finally put the experiment to sleep.

Heinz's initial reaction was to make the plant conform to its policies:
management shut down half the plant, eliminated the team system, suspended
all the ongoing training that made the team system viable, and cut 150
jobs. But the team-based structure refused to roll over and play dead.

During the last six months Heinz has performed a public about-face to
broadcast its faith in the Topeka system. Bill Goode, a vice president of
human resources and quality for the company, says, "The system in Topeka
has evolved to a much higher level than any of our other plants. We look at
it as a model of where we'd like to go."

Training budgets are back in the 141-person plant; so are team meetings.
Safety concerns belong to the shop floor once more. Pay-for-knowledge is
intact, people still rotate jobs, and teams determine assignments.

This old dog continues to teach management new tricks.



Originally printed in the June-July 1996 issue of Fast Company magazine.

You may also find Fast Company magazine at http://www.fastcompany.com

--
Message posted via http://www.catkb.com
  #2  
Old April 13th 05, 08:43 AM
Gainesburger via CatKB.com
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

http://www.geocities.com/livefromjersey/gaines.html

The Death of Gaines*Burgers?
7/16/00
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
----
So I'm buying private label pet food for work. This is a particularly good
market for private label, because you won't experiment with stuff like baby
formula and hair coloring, but you'll stick most any ol' chunk of brown in
your dog dish.
Then I realize it. Like when you realize that your car's not in your
parking spot, it took a minute to sink in. I checked the entire aisle, but
to no avail. There were no Gaines*Burgers.

Those of you without dogs might not know what Gaines*Burgers are. They?re
individually wrapped patties of dog food. Each one is a few hundred red and
yellow soft rectangular pellets pressed into a hockey puck that you crumble
into a dog dish. The dog food smell is now on your hands for the next 36
hours. My old dog Jason ate them for a few years; he wasn't finicky, so his
dog food entrees flip-flopped like a fish on a boat. And they're properly
spelled with an asterisk in the middle.

Gaines*Burgers have a deep significance to me. But not because of Jason.
Gaines*Burgers was the first running gag my improv troupe had.

It started right before the first ever Mixed Signals show. It was a
monologue competition for the campus theater group, and we were the filler
material between the monologues and the judges' decision. So we had twenty
minutes, a giant theater-savvy audience, and absolutely no previous
experience. If we were gonna tank, it would become well known. We were all
a bit nervous about going out, so I was joking beforehand that we were
going to seed the audience with good suggestions, such as Gaines*Burger.

(Improv suggestion note: the best suggestions are anything we haven?t heard
before. Every show is guaranteed to have some people yell out ?Lesbians!?
or ?Proctologist!? We?ve done lesbian and proctologist scenes to death.
There?s only so much original comedy potential to be wrung out of it, and
it?s gone in a few performances. Usually the audience likes it, despite us
being bored silly on stage by pretending to reach into the posterior of yet
another troupe member. What we really like is a suggestion we haven?t done
on stage yet, where we can find new things to do with it. Lesbian
proctologist people think they're adding to the quality of the show, but
they're actually just giving us the routine we hope not to repeat.)

Hence why I said Gaines*Burger. Being the first show, there was still vast
uncharted territory for us to explore with proctology, but something like a
Gaines*Burger would guaranteed be a change of pace.

Overhearing me that day was Craig Whyte. He decided to take my suggestion
to heart. During the Noun Game, where stop the scene occasionally to get
random nouns to work into the scene, Craig yelled out ?Gaines*Burger.? And
it worked. I can't remember for the life of me what the scene was, but I'm
almost positive I was in it, and definitely positive that Gaines*Burger
worked.

Then we got a real show, also attended by Craig. Another Gaines*Burger
shout. At our second real show, a third serving of Gaines*Burger.

And then the snowball was pushed downhill. During practices, we began
throwing Gaines*Burger suggestions out like Met fans throwing batteries.
Craig Whyte dutifully shouted out Gaines*Burger at every show he could.
Craig and I began a yet-unfinished debate about which one of us actually
likes Gaines*Burgers and which one is just humoring the other guy.

It got to a high point where Jeff bought a big box of Gaines*Burgers. OK,
now he was stuck with four pounds of pungent dog food. It instantly turned
bad when the thin cardboard box turned into a burgerlanche in a crowded
back seat coming back from a movie. It wasn't as bad as it sounds; 23 of
the 24 burgers stayed intact, and it wasn't my car. We gave them out as
prizes for volunteering at improv shows, but somehow most of them were left
on the chairs at the end of the show, and went back in the box. Jeff ended
up hiding them in the room of his floormate, who three years later is
possibly still looking for some.

And then it stopped. Like a pop song, one day it stopped being played and
no one noticed. We knew each other a lot better, so the in-jokes focused
more on everyone's personal foibles and flaws. Mine (that they've realized)
is wildly flailing arms during a performance. I attribute it to wanting to
use the stage space. The new people in the troupe probably don?t even know
we ever had a Gaines*Burger thing.

And now, Gaines*Burgers were no more. I was to plenty of stores in multiple
states, and not a *Burger in sight. This was like coming back from a three
week vacation and remembering you had a cat.

I tried pets.com. The site was down. I tried petstore.com. It had just
recently merged with pets.com, which it took me to, which was still down. I
tried adding .com any and all permutations of Gaines*Burger, with every
symbol above the number keys available on my keyboard. Gaines.com was a
real site, but just some herbal remedy company. Oddly, they had a pet
products section, with a vast quantity of stuff with names like Barley Cat,
Canine Support (For Dogs Under Stress) and Female Hypersexuality
Homeopathic Pet Formula, which I think was on Showtime at 3 a.m. last week.

I had one possibility left, a caving friend in the pet store business. I
asked him if Gaines*Burgers were still around. "Yes, but don't buy them!
They're just junk food for dogs." he shot back instantly. Success! They
still existed! And ... they were horrible.

He explained it: Gaines*Burgers are made with mostly filler material, the
stuff in baloney besides hoof and snout meat. All the nutritional value of
marshmellow fluff. A lot of canned dog food has horse meat and by products,
but it's better than empty calories.

Pet stores pretty much refuse to carry them, and some supermarkets as well.
I can vouch for other brands of crumbly burger food existing on supermarket
shelves, both national brands and private label, but not a Gaines*Burger in
sight. And maybe that's a good thing.

Gaines*Burgers are now evil to me. I don't have a dog now, so all this
information really does is be a killjoy to my earlier memories, and to
wonder if Jason wasn't getting a nice shiny coat for a reason. It's mixed
in with all the other forgotten catch phrases, the Don't Have a Cow Mans
and Whatcho Talkin' Bout Willises and the soon to be forgotten Is That Your
Final Answer?

So the next time you're in an improv audience and someone asked for a
suggestion, shout out Gaines*Burger for old time's sake. Unless it's Mixed
Signals; I can't tell you how many times we've had lesbian proctologists
eating them.

--
Message posted via http://www.catkb.com
  #3  
Old April 13th 05, 08:55 AM
Lorraine
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

On Wed, 13 Apr 2005 07:38:19 GMT, "Gainsburger via CatKB.com"
wrote:

During the last six months Heinz has performed a public about-face to
broadcast its faith in the Topeka system. Bill Goode, a vice president of
human resources and quality for the company, says, "The system in Topeka
has evolved to a much higher level than any of our other plants. We look at
it as a model of where we'd like to go."


Update:
The Topeka plant is now owned by Del Monte.
  #4  
Old April 13th 05, 09:37 AM
-L.
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default


Gainsburger via CatKB.com wrote:
Management Bites Dog Food Factory
A story of management resistance to
employee involvement and self-direction
by Art Kleiner


It started out as an experiment in workplace democracy and set

performance
records. So why did the bosses want to shut it down?

This is the story of an idea so powerful that management couldn't

kill it.
An idea rooted in a factory that four different companies have owned,
enjoyed great results from, and then tried to shut down---only to

have the
idea bite management back.

The idea is self-governing, high-performance teams---the stuff of the

now-
back-in-vogue socio-technical movement. The place is a dog food

plant,
where the idea was first tried, flourished, and then went through
successive owners who couldn't decide which side of the idea they

were on.
The story dates back to 1966.

One morning, in an isolated warehouse at a Gaines dog food plant in
Kankakee, Illinois, a 20-year-old nightshift worker was found bound

to a
column with packaging tape. He was unhurt, but he couldn't get free.

Once
discovered, he was immediately cut down. The question was: What to do

next?
The workers who'd assaulted their colleague couldn't be punished

because of
union rules. And Lyman Ketchum and Ed Dulworth, the two senior

managers in
the plant, didn't want to punish them. Labor-management relations

were
already on the brink of explosion, in part a result of the unexpected
success of Gainesburgers, which had pushed the decrepit facility to

operate
at three-times capacity. Instead of "kicking ass and taking names"

as some
supervisors suggested, Ketchum and Dulworth opted for a more

radical---and
more productive---course: a sociotechnical pilot project.


I know this plant. The workers used to grab stray dogs and throw them
into the meat grinders, alive, for fun. And I suspect the guy tied to
the post was black, the perps, white. Not a pretty place,
what-so-ever...

-L.

 




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