As a young man, Jack Stack tried the military, was fired from General Motors, and then landed an assembly-line supervisor job at International Harvester. Eventually, he would become CEO of the engine construction firm Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation, and an extraordinary motivator and leader. But in his early years, his most valuable asset was the insight that everyone, himself included, needed a feeling of purpose beyond his or her immediate, selfish needs.
The supervisor job was no plum assignment. The line was performing terribly, with about a 50 percent defect rate. In talking to the line workers, Stack realized that all of them regarded their job as only a paycheck. They didn't ...