How Values Make Hard Decisions Easy

This is the second post in a series about Values. You might want to read the first, Can You Be Too Gazelle Intense?. Corporations are big and evil.

baby cow for baby menCreative Commons License Robert S. Donovan via Compfight

They only value profits.

Forget about what might make their employees or customers happy, the only concern is pleasing the stockholders.

How many times have we heard arguments like these trotted out in the wake of the Enron debacle and Occupy Wall Street? By now, even those of us who believe in the inherent goodness of people have stopped cringing when movies like Erin Brockovich or Silkwood or Thank You For Smoking come out.

Whenever we see a businessman in a police procedural TV show, it's almost guaranteed that he's the bad guy and will end up a victim of his own greed because his values are so screwed up.

Gone are the days of Ward Cleaver and Mike Brady, businessmen who did good and cared for their families.

Baby Food

Raymond Dunn was 15 in 1990. Born with a rare genetic defect which gave him an abnormally small head. He was blind, profoundly retarded, and cannot speak.

Raymond was also profoundly allergic.

So much so that the only food his parents found that he could tolerate was Gerber's MBF, a pricey, meat-based formula created for allergic infants.

But in 1985, due to declining sales, Gerber decided to stop making the stuff.

Gerber agreed to ship all their backlog, including expired jars (after obtaining an FDA waiver) to the Dunn's. They even agreed to provide the formula to any manufacturer willing to produce the MBF for Raymond.

There were no takers.

By 1990, she had only a few months' supply left. Every alternative they tried made Raymond sick. They were out of options.

People Matter

So the people inside Gerber who had been helping the Dunns throughout this ordeal approached their management with a proposal. They had found a way to assemble special equipment and source the special ingredients to produce a limited run of MBF. It would provide a two year's supply.

Gerber agreed, as long as the employees did the work on their own time, the company would provide floor space for the production line and ingredients.

The employees did pull it off, and Raymond received a two year extension to his life. Moreover, the Dunns were told that, if no alternative had been found by the time this supply ran out, Gerber would be willing to do it all again in two more years' time.

In fact, the volunteers kept Raymond alive for ten years, from the time they began looking for the back stock of MBF in 1985 until his death in 1995.

For one special customer.


When you value your people, these decisions come easily.

How do you think Gerber's decision to have the employees work on their own time, rather than paying them for the work, might have affected how invested they were in the project? Leave a comment and tell us about it!