W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc.
Company Background
. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. (Gore), with annual revenues exceeding
$1.3 billion, is best known worldwide for its Gore-Tex
TM
fabrics. Located
in more than 45 sites around the world, the company employs more
than 6,500 associates. Gore has repeatedly been named as among the
“100 Best Companies to Work for in America.”
1
Fundamental to Gore’s corporate culture is its passion for product
leadership and innovation. The company’s team-based environment
is designed to encourage product leadership initiatives by fostering
direct person-to-person communication. The company emphasizes,
“How we work sets us apart.... Our culture is a model for contemporary
organizations seeking growth by unleashing creativity and fostering
teamwork.”
2
Instead of a hierarchy of bosses and managers, the company’s
founder, Bill Gore, set out to create a “flat lattice organization.” At
Gore, there are no chains of command. Nor are there predetermined
channels of communication. Leaders at Gore emerge naturally.
Leadership is nurtured through learned experiences and an environ-
ment that emphasizes fellowship, behaviors, and skills that advance the
company’s business purposes. How this unique corporate culture trans-
lates into the leadership challenges, behavioral expectations, and devel-
opmental paths for finance associates at Gore is the emphasis of this
case study.
Gore’s special culture includes a language of its own. Some of the
most important terms used at Gore, which will be found throughout this
case study, are defined below.
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Associate: All individuals at Gore are equals. There are no titles,
job descriptions, or official leaders. The term “employee” is not
used at Gore.
Commitment: Each associate makes his or her own commitment
to the organization. No associate can impose a commitment on
another. All work is organized around teams and commitments.
Each commitment is a contract that must be fulfilled before an
associate can move on to new or broader responsibilities.
Lattice organization: This term stems from Bill Gore’s observation
that in every organization there is an underground lattice that dis-
seminates information and gets things done. At Gore, tasks and
objectives are not assigned by managers; instead, they are defined
by personal commitments and cooperative team efforts.
Sponsor: Every associate has a sponsor. Sponsors are associates
who help others to succeed in fulfilling their commitments to
both themselves and the organization.
Global Finance and Finance Associates
Since our last visit with Gore in 1994,
3
financial leadership has em-
braced a more centralized form and emphasis. Finance associate
Douglas Maughan notes, “The purpose of establishing the global
finance team was not to build a kingdom of financial associates.” At
Gore, a decentralized or individualistic approach to finance simply did
not easily translate into consistent behavioral expectations and develop-
mental paths. More than 225 finance associates currently partner with
Gore’s businesses and business associates around the world. Maughan
adds, “We simply needed a more focused approach to bring everyone
along.”
The centralization of finance that Maughan describes is far from
what one expects. The global financial leadership team is composed of
only five finance associates. Two of these associates—one is Maughan—
are informally recognized as the leaders of the global financial leader-
ship team. Traditional formal designations, such as CFO, vice president
of finance, or controller, do not exist at the company. With the excep-
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