Taking the social media plunge: Learning to let go

November 16, 2010: 11:25 AM ET

By Andrew McAfee, contributor

(Management Innovation eXchange) -- Manonamission.blogspot.com has a great collection of corporate mission statements. I recently used its search function to find examples of companies that prominently and publicly state something close to "people are our most important asset."

Here's a partial list: Nestlé, Procter & Gamble (PGFortune 500), Land O' Lakes, Danaher (DHRFortune 500), Archer Daniels Midland (ADM,Fortune 500), Valero (VLOFortune 500), Performance Food Group, Norfolk Southern (NSCFortune 500), and Border's Group (BGP).

And here's a group of companies that similarly value "empowerment:" Caremark (CVSFortune 500), Sara Lee (SLEFortune 500), Heinz (HNZFortune 500), Dow Chemical (DOWFortune 500), GE (GE,Fortune 500), and Alcoa (AA,Fortune 500).

I don't mean to pick on these companies; they're just particularly clear examples of how all organizations talk about their people. I've never come across a modern enterprise that publicly states anything like "We want our people to put their heads down and do only the jobs that have been assigned to them. We want their thinking to stay 'inside the box.' When we want their opinions, we'll ask for them. Our machines and business processes are our most important assets; our people just keep them running." Instead, virtually all organizations stress the empowerment of their people.

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