September 20, 2010 at 11:56pm
We talk a lot about how important communication is. Communication within our organizations is one of the easiest, most valuable tools we have, and we don't always find a way to use it properly. Sometimes different silos guard information instead of sharing it across the organization. It is invaluable to simply take the time to explain why the work someone is doing is important. It's amazing how interactions and attitudes change toward the work people do for one another.
In 1966, Varian, Inc. was one of few vacuum instruments and vacuum products companies. Because of the industry, Varian was working on many innovative technical projects. The motto was "A man has the right to know the significance of what he's doing." Everyone at Varian knew and lived by the motto. It was plastered everywhere. It created a culture of empowerment and communication.
When the company was founded by the Varian brothers in the 1940s, they established a company with an environment of continually seeking excellence. People wanted to participate in the work, and the motivation and creative thinking came from within. The company motto pervaded everything at the company.
Key Innovations & Timeline
Because Varian was founded on achieving technical excellence, there isn't much of a timeline to record here. By the 1950s, Varian management made sure that the message of communicating to employees about the importance of their work was well-known across the firm. This was an innovation in the industry, but it wasn't an innovation at the company. Varian was simply founded on this principle.
Challenges & Solutions
One significant challenge was that project managers, researchers, and engineers were relatively unorganized. However, this meant individuals had a free hand in identifying what projects they wanted to work on. Management turned this into an opportunity to motivate employees to take on projects they found interesting and intellectually challenging.
It was sometimes challenging to find projects for people that they found interesting. When management took time to learn about individual interests and nurture those interests, those employees became high level contributors.
Benefits & Metrics
Because of its culture, Varian became a world leader and Nobel Prize winner in the field of magnetic resonance, which became a direct path to the development of the MRI. Varian continues to have successes, and much of this success can be attributed to how they approach their work -- transparently, as a team.
Organizations don't have to be founded like Varian to establish a culture of exchanging information. When employees are trusted and empowered to work together towards shared goals, everyone becomes an owner and an important factor for success. Varian fostered goodwill, creative thinking, collaboration, and a desire to do good and meaningful work among its employees.
A former Varian senior manager