JCI : The Value of Purpose

  • 5
  • June 12, 2015
  • Sunny Lee-Goodman

Case Study Details

Gold prices had been declining steadily. Mining costs were spiraling in a hyper-inflationary domestic environment. Gold mines had maximized any efficiencies they could and no further savings seemed possible. The social cost of closing down mines and laying off tens of thousands of laborers was huge. JCI, one of South Africa's leading mining companies at the time, asked Lapin International to help.

We surveyed employees and found that they had little to no understanding of the value of their work. They knew they were mining rock from which ore was extracted and smelted into gold bars that were then sold to the government. But they believed that the government then buried those bars back into the ground (a perception not too far from reality). Their work, therefore, had an element of absurd meaninglessness to it. They also saw no value to the revenue they were helping JCI generate for its shareholders. Firstly, they had no understanding of the profiles of the average shareholder in JCI; and secondly, the company itself (as was the case with most companies in South Africa in 1994), was perceived as a power of exploitation rather than an employer worthy of commitment and dedication. Subsequently, we asked ourselves, "What would happen to productivity levels if workers were uplifted by the meaning and the value of their labor?" JCI invited us to experiment.

We presented them with movie clips of a man giving his significant other a gift of gold jewelry and demonstrated its impact on the woman and on their relationship. We showed the exchanging and gifting of golden wedding rings at weddings in different parts of the world. We had a radiologist explain how medicine uses gold to save lives. We brought in everyday people whose pensions were invested in JCI gold shares. These people spoke to the miners about their dependence on the work they did and the profits the mine was able to generate. These pensioners thanked the miners and shook their hands. We explained in simplified terms the role of gold in establishing world economies and speculated what might happen if countries had no stores of gold at all.

We designed and articulated the Purpose of JCI and taught the miners why Purpose was so important, what Purpose was and how they could contribute to it. We redefined their jobs from an input and work focus to an output and contribution focus.

JCI then measured the workers' productivity and effectiveness. We had "mined" a new source of value that improved efficiency without any further cost-cutting. By tapping into Purpose, we liberated boundless human energy and taught managers how to access that energy, nourish it, sustain it and manage it. JCI bought the rights to Lapin's program in order to train every employee and manager in it. The mine's output increased without increasing cost, and it went on to remain one of the country's premier gold mines.