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As I continue my review of Valley Forge Fabrics, I see they draw upon another tactic used by leaders like Sun Tzu and Jack Welch, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric (GE).

To inspire cohesion and innovative thinking, a company must be united against a common enemy.

Sun Tzu would advocate that one should "march your forces deep into enemy territory" to force cohesion. Knowing that soldiers control the only hope of escape makes them fight more cooperatively.

Jack Welch uses this principle when designing GE’s structure. He developed it like many smaller, individual companies, each with its own profit and loss and organizational unit. This exposes managers more directly to the market and the competition, and forces all GE mini-corporations to think innovatively to stay on top of their respective niches.

Valley Forge Fabrics achieves a similar effect by giving its project managers unprecedented freedom to design solutions for clients. Managers run their own teams and can offer prices and estimates to clients on the spot. They handle their own projects, and they understand that it is up to them to make sure their projects are effective and cost-efficient. This empowers the managers and provides clients with immediate service and pricing.

Individual empowerment is underrated in today’s corporate environment. When people feel in control of their future and of their place within an organization, then they feel more dedicated to their employer. By having a personal stake within a company, individuals tend to take on more responsibility and be more self-reliant.

This strategy of mini-corporations encourages individual entrepreneurship and sparks creativity. It also makes it easy to distinguish high performers and born leaders within the company.

Ask yourself the following questions to see if there is a way to empower your managers.

  1. Can you identify projects that managers can take more control of?
  2. Can you break apart your organization to expose your managers more directly to market forces?
  3. Can you provide an environment of empowerment to make your employees more dedicated to your company?