First Financial Services Organization To Improve Efficiency with Principles Developed in 1930's by Steelworker, Prizefighter and MIT Lecturer, Joe Scanlon

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Over 86% of Watermark Credit Union Employees voted to adopt the first Scanlon Plan in the Financial Services Industry. Why would one of the most progressive Credit Unions in America adopt the Principles of a Steelworker who died in the 1950's? Scanlon was a leading exponent of using the full talents of workers to create organizations of exceptional efficiency and today is known as the father of employee involvement.

The dream of the steelworker Joe Scanlon who died over a half century ago is alive and well at Seattle based Watermark Credit Union.

In the 1930's through the 1950's Joe Scanlon pioneered labor-management cooperation, employee involvement, open-book management, gainsharing and servant leadership in business. Time Magazine wrote that Joe Scanlon was the most sought after consultant in America and Fortune and Life Magazine featured his work. Today, some may believe Scanlon's ideas have "gone the way of the Hupmobile"...yet not at Watermark Credit Union.

Scanlon ideas were adopted by manufacturing organizations like Motorola, Herman Miller, and Magna Donnelly. They were also experimented with in health care at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, but have never before been attempted in the financial services industry.

According to management scholar Warren Bennis, the Japanese took Scanlon's ideas concerning worker involvement and combined them with the ideas of quality guru W. Edwards Deming. Today many businesses are adopting Japanese management techniques without knowing that many of them were Scanlon ideas.

Scanlon's ideas continue at the nonprofit Scanlon Leadership Network (considered one of the best-kept secrets in Business). The Scanlon Leadership Network guided Watermark as they developed their Scanlon Plan. The Network is a group of organizations that share best practices and help each other become the best places to work and most admired organizations in their industries.

Each Scanlon plan is unique and created by a team of employees. Each plan includes how information is shared, how employees are involved in decision making, how gains are shared, and how training and development are practiced.

At critical stages in developing a Scanlon plan secret ballot votes are conducted to insure commitment to the plan. Watermark employees voted overwhelmingly for their plan. They call their plan "EPIC" for the four component principles of Equity, Participation, Identity, and Competence.

Scanlon believed that the average employee had talent, motivation, and creativity. He believed they could improve their organizations if only given the opportunity. He dreamed that someday we would learn "that together we can achieve the impossible."

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Paul Davis
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