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Pride: more valuable than money

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In the early 1990s, Detroit executives told the 3,500 employees at General Motors’ assembly plant in Wilmington, Del., that GM had decided to shut down the place by 1996.

After the execs left, plant manager Ralph Harding stood up to address the workers. Morale was at rock bottom. “There is something we can do,” he said. “Because they are going to be closing the best plant in General Motors!”

Harding galvanized the workforce to make the Wilmington plant a model for every factory in the GM system.

He motivated everyone to tackle quality-control problems and reduce costs. “Be the Best!” was printed on posters and printed on jackets for employees. Union leaders and managers worked more closely than ever to find ways to cut costs. Harding kept everyone updated on weekly progress.

The result: Within two years, the workers made the factory the lowest-cost producer in GM. In 1996, GM reversed itself and kept the plant open.

Pride-building was at the root of the positive turnaround. Everybody in the plant could feel good about their incredible achievement.

—Adapted from “Getting Extraordinary Performance When You Can’t Pay For It,” John A. Byrne, Fast Company.

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