Topic: "Garland Duesenberry" (2)
Some years ago, when Frodo was concerned about how organizations achieved goals through people, as opposed to how they achieve goals in spite of people, he journeyed to a small town in Tennessee to observe a special phenomenon. Located in the community of Lynchburg the largest employer in an entire County is the Jack Daniels Distillery. The County, interestingly enough, is "dry," which means that retail alcoholic beverage sales are prohibited by law. Frodo had earlier learned that the Jack Daniels Company had never been unionized and, what's more, in the entire history of the company no employee had ever been dismissed for cause, i.e. fired. Frodo wanted to know how all of this came together and what, if anything, it meant to the outside world.
Garland Duesenberry was the tour guide for Frodo and Sam. He had worked there his entire life, and he was an able and erudite spokesmen for his employer. Throughout the tour, Mr. Duesenberry was quick to emphasize the pride in the product exhibited by the workers. Frodo was increasingly skeptical because of the apparent hypocrisy. How could there be pride in a product which the voters felt should be necessarily restricted in their community?
Toward the end of the tour, Frodo and Sam were led into a room with a long rolling conveyor belt, along which were seated dozens of middle-aged ladies. Bottles were passing along the conveyor belt (much like the chocolates passed in front of Lucy & Ethel on black & white TV), and the ladies were pasting the Jack Daniels label on each bottle, by hand. Suddenly a whistle was heard through a loudspeaker, and the conveyor belt ceased to move. Frodo then noted that each lady had a quilt on her lap, which she immediately pulled up and on which she began to sew, embroider, or whatever one does to work on a quilt. A cacophony of dialogue arose as conversation between the ladies continued for several minutes. Just as suddenly the whistle sounded and the conveyor belt began, again, to move. The ladies each returned the quilt to the lap, and silently continued to slap labels onto bottles.
Frodo stood there for a half-an-hour in order to observe the cycle several times. The ladies appeared to be doing their jobs flawlessly, and the belt moved on a consistent schedule. Not one single lady seemed bored, disenchanted, exhausted, or frustrated. In fact, they seemed, each of them, to be enjoying themselves.
Mr. Duesenberry stood with Frodo the entire time. He had seen the look that was on Frodo's face many times before, and waited for the questions that followed. When the tour was complete, and Frodo and Sam had returned to their motorcar, Frodo was rambling on about the admirable relationship between management and managed, and how every MBA school in America should schedule a visit to observe the manufacture of an outstanding product by a company that was a community, and that behaved like a community.
Today, amid all the pre-election posturing, Frodo heard an economist talk about the savings that American corporate entities will reap in years to come as more and more administrative positions are out-sourced to overseas operations. The ballooning corporate profits of the third quarter will be extended by the savings that further outsourcing will provide. Every time he hears comments like this he thinks back to his tour of the Jack Daniels Distillery.
Frodo understands that the conveyor belt is still there, but the ladies are all gone.
Garland Duesenberry passed away some time ago. No one has taken his place. The County is still "dry." Maybe the MBA schools did come and study the Distillery, and perhaps that is the "rub."