W.L. Gore’s vision of “Freedom”

At W.L. Gore, with its vision of “Freedom,” the decision-rights of associates (as all members of the organization are called) are determined by the “water-line” principle. Employees envision their enterprise as a ship on which they all sail together. If someone occasionally bores an accidental hole above the ship’s waterline, it’s not calamitous; after all, innovative organizations must make allowances for some mistakes. A hole below the waterline, however, could sink the ship. Therefore the waterline principle states that on “any action that might seriously harm the success, the reputation, or the survival of the enterprise, the associate will consult with appropriate associates who might share the responsibility of taking this action.”

Source: Connecting Across Boundaries: The Fluid-Network Organization / Arun N. Maira / Prism, 1998, Issue 1

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