Sacred cows: How to herd ’em out

Sacred cows are roaming your hallways. They’re grazing on profits, productivity and patience.

To round them up and put them out to pasture, you need to be a constant cow hunter. And you need to get your entire team excited about tumbling those herds.

Tractor Supply stores issue cowbells to employees. A bell gets rung every time a sacred cow is identified, and employee hunters are cheered and toasted. Awards go out to the best cow of the month.

Merck Pharmaceutical’s 59 plants have monthly sacred-cow barbecues.

Williams Pipe Line company gives a free lunch—a hamburger—to the employee who identifies a sacred cow in his department. If your idea is “irresistabull,” leadership gives you a $10 gift certificate. And if it’s “udderly” wonderful, you get a $50 certificate. You also get an invite to a luncheon with the district managers.

At Williams Pipe Line company, the result has been a steady stream of ideas that have saved thousands of dollars and a morale boost.

“This kind of program is far superior to the suggestion box,” says Steven Ball, senior vice president. “You know what you get with a suggestion box? Cigarette butts and coffee cups.”

— Adapted from Sacred Cows Make the Best ­Burgers, Robert Kriegel and David Brandt.