3M: Innovation Driven Company?*



Case Code : CLBS040
Publication date : 2004
Subject : Business Strategy
Industry : Diversified Technology
Length : 03 Pages
Price : Rs. 50

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Key words:

3M, Culture of Innovation, James McNerney Jr., General Electric (GE), 3M Acceleration Program, Six Sigma Initiative, Seniority based pay structure, Performance based pay structure

* This caselet is intended for use only in class discussions.
** More comprehensive case studies are priced at Rs.200 to Rs.700 (US $5 to US $16) per copy.


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The caselet deals with the changes undertaken by James McNerney Jr., CEO of 3M, who was the first outsider to be recruited to that position in the history of 3M. The caselet assesses the impact these changes had on the organization and also mentions the apprehensions industry observers had about the changes undertaken at the company.


  The drive to balance a culture of innovation with efficiency.
  The role of organization culture in promoting innovation in the organization.
  The role of top management in undertaking changes in a company.


It was celebration time at 3M! The company completed 100 years in business in 2002. For many, 3M represented the house of innovation. For 100 years, 3Ms formula for growth - recruit the right people, provide them with the right environment to work and let them do their things - resulted in around 55,000 products and over thousands of patents for the company.

Analysts attributed 3Ms success to its commitment to innovation. They pointed out that 3M gave its employees the freedom to conduct research in areas of their choice even if that research was not related to their official projects. By thus nurturing the talents of its employees and fostering a climate of innovation, 3M became one of the most innovative companies in the world....

Questions for Discussion:

1. Since its early years, what strategies did 3M adopt to foster a culture of innovation in the organization? How far do you attribute the success of the company to its culture?

2. In December 2000, 3M announced the appointment of James McNerney Jr. (McNerney) of General Electric as its CEO. Describe briefly, the steps taken by McNerney to stimulate growth at 3M?