Why Should we look to Gore for Management Success?

I have been reading the amazing book by Malcolm Gladwell called the tipping point. In this Malcolm looks at why Gore is such a innovative company both in products and management. I have dug about there website, and used some of the basic tennents from Gladwell’s short piece.

For every climber, Hillwalker, Mountaineer dare I say it anyone who enjoys the outdoors, has probably owned a product at one point or another that was manufactured by Gore and Associates, the eponymous Gore-Tex. What we don’t really know about that little logo on our clothing means that the fabric and the manufacturing process that put it together has reached the high standards set by Gore company.

What we probably don’t understand is that multinational company W.L. Gore & Associates has a £2.5 billion pound turnover, and for the past 14 years has made the FORTUNE list of the top 100 companies to work for, it has been I the lists since they were first conceived. It has also been named as one of the best companies to work for in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and Spain.

You have probably guessed that waterproof clothing isn’t there main line of work, instead it is just one of the many uses for the new polymer that the company invented. This was expanded polytetrafluorothylene which is a bit of a mouthful. However its street name of ePTFE, is much more widely recognized.

The company started as suppliers of plastic shielding to wiring, that was needed more and more as the digital age started to take shape, including a very early contract with IBM and NASA during the 1960’s. It wasn’t until 1969 that the innovation that was to rapidally expand there product range, when Bill Gore decided to stretch PTFE tape as quickly as possible, instead of breaking the resultant material is strong, Highly porous and extremely versatile. Its early use was in pipe thread (plumber tape) and Joint sealant in industrial pipes.

It wasn’t until the mid 1970’s that real modern uses that have made Gore-tex famous were developed. First with the construction of vascular grafts, and Gore sets up its medical division which is one of its key uses in modern medicine. It wasn’t until 1976 that Gore-Tex the fabric was launched, and from that point on the company had a heads start on innovation, and has continued to develop its fabrics year on year making them better and even more versatile for the average user. Today one of there leading fabrics is gore-tex that is waterproof and stretchy.

But this doesn’t necessarily tell us why Gore Associates is such a good company to work for. For that I have to go back to Malcolm Gladwells book the tipping point. In this he refers to the magic number of 150. This if you read his book is a number that is widely acknowledge as the maximum of people that an individual human can come into contact with and have a close enough relationship and understanding of that the close and strong ties can be made between member of that group.

Gore has had a policy of restricting each factory unit to around this number, one of the associates jokes that by restricting the car park to just 150 places they know when they need a new factory as there are cars parked on the grass.

Gore’s business model goes beyond that and the workers are known as associates, and because of this, there is no real heirachy, in that the manufacturer, the designers and the sales people all work together on projects. When people are hired they have a sponsor not a boss. By all accounts and accolades this model has worked to keep Gore at the forefront of technology that makes a real difference to thousands if not millions of people a year, even if you don’t know it.

So whilst you might wear a Gore-Tex logo on your jacket, the odds are other things in your life that hide the gore-tex logo, good business management is one of them!

LLAMFF: Where were you all?

Hi First of all I’d like to say thanks to all the people who either came to see me give my talk today, or came along on the masterclasses I gave on the Saturday up at the Beacon. Also a massive thanks go out to the organisers of LLAMFF, as a lot of thankless effort goes into bringing an amazing event like this together.

What I want to know is where were you all, as despite a good line up of flms and talkers the event was well down on the types of numbers its used to. I know it was so sunny on the saturday that you’d be forgiven for going climbing, but on the Sunday it was rather drizzly. I guess we are also at the wrong end of the reccession as well. I’d just like to know your excuses. So please add a comment to this post .

I have done review for UKC, so will link to this when it goes online.

LLAMFF gets underway


Well this picture was taken at high noon today, and the 2011 Llanberis Mountain Film Festival is  starting to get underway, with various stalls setting up from teh sponsors, as well as the venues being turned into presentation centres. It won’t be long now till the first speakers get going, shortly followed by the Pub Quiz.

If you are sat in your office right now and don’t know what to do this weekend, its simple, get in a car or on a train and head to LLanberis. Tickets are still available and it should be a great weekend of fun and festivity. Look forward to maybe seeing one or to of my readers around, or my tweeps.


Gwynedd Council: The Mind Boggles

I noticed a while back, that the roads around North Wales are essentially falling to pieces, mainly due to a savage winter last year, and the cold snap I missed in November/December. As such we have some pretty good potholes about at the moment, although they really aren’t on a par with some of the car eating ones in Scotland when I was up threre last month.

Now I can accept than in this time of austerity that there might not be any money to actually repair them, however for the last few weeks, if not months now, there has been work going on outside Pete’s Eats. Where the council has taken upon itself to narrow the road, and widen the pavement, reducing even more the number of parking palces in Llanberis. Which in my mind is bad enough, however, there have often been 5 people ‘working’ on this site, and I bet they are on at least £100 a day.

Rather than just tarmac the pavement, these guys are essentially laying ten paving tiles a day. No don’t get me wrong the tiling is perfect, infact I’d imagine even one of the big muslim mosques in say mecca, would be jealous of the painstaking accuracy that these workmen are getting. It seems they are laying these slabs to within microns of accuracy of each other. Whats more it loks like they are going to be here for a few more weeks.

My beef is, why on earth the Council saw fit to waste money making less parking, rather than do a much more need job of getting rid of the numerous and potentially dangerous potholes. My mind is just boggled at the thought process that must go on in the Gwynedd Council Offices. I can see teh discussion now, “right we have £30000 to spend on something, what shall we do?”, “Well we can fill in potholes and make teh roads safer, or we can piss off locals and tourists alike by spending a fortune on a reducing parking and then laying the most precise patio in the world ever”, “Patio did you say, that sounds nice, we’ll go with teh pissing people off, rather than serving our local tax payers!”

Excellent think, Gwynedd Council you’ve done it again. My bet is the paving is being laid by a cousin, brother or friend of someone in teh highways department! If only there was a journalist who could be bothered to research these things.

Dumb and Dumber

I was reminded of this clip, when I did a similar thing on Monday. A great looking woman, into climbing, comes up and starts talking to me (Believe me this is a Very rare event!), as she remembers me from years ago at the climbing wall. Slideshow starts, so our conversation was cut short, slideshow finishes. I get up and say goodbye! What a tool.

Still kicking myself, although starting to see the funny side!

A Brief History of Mountain Rescue

I guess if we are going to explore the history of mountainr escue we must first travel back in time to when it became important enough an issue for there to be a need. So as we flick back through years we can quite safely say that before the 1800’s there was little need for mountain rescue, mainly because very few individuals actually headed out into the hill. Say for shepherd’s, farmers, miners and the occassional road builders.

The thing was they were all there for work, and not pleasure. It was only during the romantic movement of English Literature and art, that sparked an interest in the outdoors and wild places in both the UK and further afield. Historically though during this period ‘mass’ participation still hadn’t started to occur. In the UK at teh time we were in the throws of teh Industrial revolution, and whilst the upper class became richer and richer the common man was still stuck inside factories working hard, and as such had little time to escape to the hills. As such it was more a ‘gentlemanly pastime’.

Those that were unfortunate enough to need rescuing sadly either perished on the hills where they fell or often died during arduous evacuations across rough ground. The rescuer were the local farmer, shepherds and quarrymen who happened to be in the area at the time, and would have no doubt been paid for thier troubles by the wealthy men and women they were attempting to rescue.

There came apoint though where the view of rescuing people from mountains started to tip in the direction that we see today. As you’ll see it was often through people misfortune that opinion and practice changed, usually in a reactive way rather than proactively seeking change. The first notable incident occured in 1903, and is referred to as the Scafell Disaster. It typifies why the age old climbers phrase, ‘the leader never falls’ wasn’t so much a idyl warning but more fall at yours and other peril.

The reasons that a leader should never fall, was because a fall had disasterous consequences as we shall see with the Scafell Disaster. Firstly, there was no form of protection at the time, the only equipment available to climbers was a hemp rope that they tied round there waist. A falling leader would often fall a long way meaning lots of injuries, if the second held the fall then the lack of stretch in the rope meant that the rope was likely to snap or the climber would break there back. If the climber survived the fall, then the pressure put on the diaphragm meant that unless they could unweight the rope in 3 minutes then the would asphyxiate. Just as happen many years later on one of the first attempts to climb the North Face of teh Eiger.

What happened on Scafell was that the leader fell, and without an adequate belay, he then pull three others he was roped upto, to their deaths. This aweful accident made the mountaineering club of the time take a look at the provisions they made for rescue. So within a year rudimentary mountain rescue equipment and first aid equipment was place at rescue post in areas around the UK.

For the time being that was that, little changed for the next twenty years, until on a fateful day in November 1928, a member of the Rucksack club Edgar Pryor, was knocked off when leading a route by a lady seconding the route above him at Laddow. Edgar fell 40ft into a gully below. Breaking both his skull and his thigh, what happened next is a testiment to those around him, and one man in a hospital who took the lessons from this incident and fought a unwavering battle with government.

Whilst Edgar was lying in the gully, a team improvised a stretcher of sorts out of a few fence posts, the made a split for his leg out of a rucksac, and then spent 4 hours carrying him down off the hill to a waiting ambulance. This then took a further hour and a half to reach Manchester Imfirmary, by which time the surgeon a Dr Wilson Hey noted that he was so shocked that he had to undergo a blood transfusion before they could operate, and despite the efforts of the surgical team Edgar’s leg had to eventually be amputated.

Wilson Hey believed that the transportation and the resultant shock was in part what lead to teh limb being amputated. Imprtantly add that, ‘the absence of morphia with teh transport, did more damage to the limb than the mountain’. It was something that seemed to bother Dr Hey, who became a champion and pioneer of the development of the medical capabilities of Mountain Rescue.

Again the develop for Mountain Rescue in general fell to the Mountaineering Club, inparticular the Fell and Rock Climb Club, which set up a joint stretcher committee, to find a suitable way to carry casulaties off the mountains. In 1932 they chose the Thomas Stretch, as well as a list of equipment that needed to be placed in every mountain rescue post around the UK. Interesting many of these rescue post still exist, and many are frequently used today. Inaprticular the post in the bottom of Corrie N’snechda in the cairngorms still houses a stretcher and basic first aid equipment.

Then in 1936 this committee went on to become the First Aid Committee of Mountaineering Clubs, which was established by the climbing clubs of the time, along with notable universities, the ramblers federation and the YHA. Each group paid a 2% levy to the committee to help fund the continued provision of Mountain Rescue Posts. It was also the first time all incidents were reported to a central office, something that can’t be overlooked, as with information on accidents then something could finally be done to address the common causes.

All during this 15 year period the Dr Wilson Hey was engaged in petitioning Whitehall to licence Morphia’s use in Mountain Rescue. He was so convinced that ‘morphia reduces suffering and suffering produces shock and that prolonged shock leads to death’, that he issued morphia at his own expense and without a licence until in 1949 the government recognised the need. Ever since Mountain Rescue has had a medical officer who issues morphine.

This was the start of the Mountain Rescue service we see today, a year later in 1950 and a Mountain Rescue Committee was set up, initally with no official contact between teams, Dr Wilson Hey’s office in the Manchester Infirmary. It was around this time that local rescue teams started to form into more organised groups. It was from this organisation that  Mountain Rescue England & Wales was set up.

There are now 8 regions and nearly fifty MR teams that cover the UK.

This a short post based on part of the talk I gave to the 2nd Year Students at Bangor University for the Conway Centre. A large part of it was based on this page of the MREW. Hope you enjoyed the story, as much as I did. I feel a salute to Dr Wilson Hey coming on!

Neil Gresham Lecture

It is rather rare these days to get slideshows in North Wales, as despite being one of teh major rock climbing destinations in the UK, it seems that it no longer has the appeal for the climbers doing the lecture circiut. Admittedly, a few people like Kirkpatrick and Andy Cave have done shows in Rhyll. However, Rhyll isn’t exactly the north wales climbing heartland, its more just an extension of liverpool. So when I saw at work that Neil Gresham was doing a talk at the Brenin, I decided to nip over and see the show, and lend some local support, this was possibly augmented by the fact that at the moment I have  no TV.

The last time I saw neil was a couple years back when we were on a Nation Source group looking into the formation of coaching awards at a national level. A testiment to how hard it is to move NGB’s in a new direction the set date for the awards inception is 2013. Before that I remember hanging out with Neil when he was a DMM rep, now Neil works as a supported athlete for Sportiva and runs coaching course. Neil was up with Sportiva giving a lecture at the brenin, for staff from outdoor shops who were on a training course with Lyon Equipment. I was looking forward to seeing just what he’d been up to in all those years.

The answer is he’s been busy. His talk was an interesting one, as he has lived through some of the most dramatic changes in climbing. WHen he started out he was into cragging, and as the years passed by he got into bouldering, sports climbing, continental style mixed climbing, Deep Water Soloing and training. His intro describe well how the game of climbing has changed and morphed into what it is today. He has always been a bit of a jack of all trades, and like the modern king of this all round climbing Dave Macloed, he has been masters of them all.

I was disappointed that he didn’t talk about his ascent of Indian Face, but from his talk he had enough to fill the time. Interestingly, and he really didn’t drill hoe the point, he was often a pioneer within these sub-sports, which whilst now are totally excepted, back when he was exploring these new and exciting sports many climbers snubbed at there relavence to ‘real’ or ‘proper’ climbing.

The main focus of his talk was exploratory climbing from Ice Climbing in Iceland, Deep Water Soloing and developing new rotues in Kalymnos and China. It was a diverse talk, and one with so many good images that I ended up playing the game of naming the route, as the images were just a back drop for the narative.

Anyway thanks for Lyon Equipment and Sportiva for getting him up here. I am sorry that I didn’t mention it on here before hand but I was asked not to. As Lyon equipment feared they would get all there people in there.

The Dervish Test

Anyone whos reads this blog will know that I more than anyone else have done the east face of vivian, aka sunchaser wall so many times it must be getting tedious for you. Unfortunately it is never tedious for me. I simply loved the place and the link up of the routes from the bottom of vivian to the top of the Dervish. With my absence from North Wales for over 6 months, it was great to nip up the route again.

Llion was playing hooky from work, as he had a dentist appointment and a numb mouth. I was putting off admin work for the coming week, so we decided on a quick hit, hence the vivian route! I have to say with not climbing on slate for a long time those footholds don’t get any bigger, and it was a steep learning curve of what you can actually stand on. So I lead Mental Lentils, Llion did Monster Kitten, then I had to man up and get my weary body up Too Bald to be Bold.

Llion suggesting I belay on the ledge rather than do Turkey Chant, I think to arrange the pitches so he did the Dervish. I often see the Dervish as a real acid test of my current climbing, as I know how easy or hard it should feel given my current level of fitness. Llion danced his way upwards, remembering he hadn’t climbed on teh slab since doing Flashdance last year. I had the safer end of the rope, and my verdict was that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be, but not as easy as I’d like it to be.

Whilst it was an amazing days climbing, I got a very sad message on my phone when I returned. My grandad had passed away, probably just as I was doing the crux, he been taken into hospital yesterday and from the messages I got from my mum, he was gravely ill. Thankfully he passed away peacefully. Like many people in the modern world, I have moved away from my family roots, with my mum retired in Bournemouth, a brother in stroud and me in North Wales. My Grandad still lived in the flat he owned with his wife in Sevenoaks. As such I have not seen him in a couple of years, something that I am trying not to feel guilty about, as my lifestyle simply doesn’t allow me to take much in the way of holiday, and dribs and drabs of work scattered throughout a week make it hard for me to get down to see my mum.

In a way this has allowed me to keep my fond childhood memories of both my Nan and Grandad. My Grandad worked for most of his live in a dry cleaners, washing people clothes, and yet he I always remember him chuckling away. He Brewed his own beer, something I will always remember was being allowed a cheeky sip when I came to visit. Even more memorable to a young child was that he always kept a pocket clip of cash, and everytime we came to visit he’d slip us some pocket money. “Don’t tell your dad!”

The money often came from his gambling, he was an avid follower of the horses, and always had a eye on what horses were doing well. I like to think that in his own way he was a risk taker, and that might explain why I do what I do, whereas I take risks in climbing his risks were based on guessing what horse would win. I’d like to think we were both very successful at it! I can only hope that I make it through to his age, at over 80 years old, living through a World War, and god knows what other life experiences, I can’t help but think he had a good innings.

I shall raise a glass of beer to you Grandad, sadly not homebrewed, you filled my young life with joy.