The Emerson difference

Emerson is an achievement oriented culture. The company is well known as a training and development ground, resulting in a constant inflow of excellent new management. They seem to attract some of the best people in the industry, and keep developing the next wave of leaders.

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What does it mean to be Emerson?

This is the title of the latest Emerson annual report. It's a good lead in to "The Emerson difference".

Chuck Knight, former Chairman and CEO, and now Chairman Emeritus, has left his planning stamp on the Emerson culture. David Farr, the new CEO and Chairman, is continuing that focus. The transition from Knight to Farr was seamless. The processes continued, the basic strategies continued, and all the key managers stayed to contribute.

Results, not politics
Emerson is an achievement oriented culture. Delivering results is valued far above personalities or internal politics. Large egos with no results don't last long. High value is placed on getting things done, making decisions and taking ownership.
Open Communications at all levels
At many companies, people really don't know how parts of their own businesses are performing. That just doesn't happen at Emerson. All Emerson divisions have quarterly employee communication sessions where division performance is openly communicated, along with strategic goals and how that division is doing relative to the goals. All managers and supervisors know the full P&L, down to individual product lines.
Strong commitment to technology
Emerson invests strongly in engineering and development in good times and in bad. Critical programs are considered vital to the business. Funding is simply not pulled away in bad times, for any reason.
Customer Commitments are "sacred"
Emerson stands behind its commitments. Customer problems are fixed as a high priority. People who go beyond the call of duty to satisfy customers are honored and celebrated. Emerson people are empowered to make decisions which benefit the customer, without going through endless chains of command.
Accessible Management
Top leaders, like CEO David Farr, are very accessible. David Farr, John Berra and others return virtually all e-mail in a matter of hours, certainly no more than a day. They don't seem to insist on following every rung of the hierarchy. Front line sales people communicate directly with the top, especially when it relates to customers.
Legendary Emerson Planning Regimen
Emerson takes planning very seriously. Every division presents a full and detailed plan every year at Emerson's HQ conference center. The full executive staff is there, and fully engaged. The strategy is examined in excruciating depth. Plans are compared to the previous years, as well as YTD accomplishments vs. plan. A full presidents council review is held every 3 months for every division. At this review, actual quarterly results are compared with the plan, prior year's performance, market activity, plus competitive analysis and performance for each division. Opportunities and challenges are discussed and appropriate actions determined. Future forecasts are updated; if at variance, then the actions to be taken are presented. There is always a thorough reasonability check.
Emerson Division Board Reviews
Every Emerson Division has a full board meeting every three months. The Division Board reviews customers and competitors, markets and new market opportunities, sales and bookings, forecast results, year over prior year and quarter over prior quarter. Technology, products and new product development status are discussed at length and analyzed against current technology developments. Emerson prides itself on technology leadership and this is tracked by the quality of new products, uniqueness and percentage of new products in the sales mix.
Emerson Acquisition Record
Acquisitions are taken very seriously. When a company is acquired, Emerson knows exactly how they will be using the acquired capabilities to get full results on the investment. Perhaps the best Emerson acquisitions are the ones they didn't make. This can be measured by the disasters that competitors have had with acquisition screw-ups - usually resulting from poor analysis of strategy and prior development of tactics needed to make the acquisition a success.
People Ethos
One might expect a successful company like Emerson to be ruthless - but they are not. The company goes well beyond any normal expectations to take care of individual needs. At a time of uncertain situational ethics, treatment of Emerson people goes well beyond legal or operational demands. Emerson is compassionate in a way that is not seen at most other companies. Says one long-term employee, "When Emerson makes a commitment, it's a bond of steel!"
Leadership development
Emerson selects the best "high potential" people, and makes development plans for each individual. "Hi-pots" are identified, developed and tracked early to ensure that there is always a crop of leaders. Many companies have a revolving door; that simply does not happen at Emerson. The company is well known and sought after as a training and development ground, resulting in a constant inflow of excellent new management. Emerson seems to attract some of the best people in the industry, and keeps developing the next wave of leaders.

John Berra, President of Emerson Process Management has been with Emerson since 1976; he was at Rosemount when it was acquired by Emerson. John provided some of these insights. He is passionate about Emerson:

    "Jim, my comments may sound like an unabashed sales pitch, and I guess they are. This is not hype - we really live this way. I have worked at other companies and have seen hundreds of others. Emerson is the genuine article!"
Some people think I'm paid by Emerson - I am not. If you think I'm biased, I am. Emerson has, in my opinion, always been the best managed of the automation majors. Their people communicate easily and quickly, with no posturing. Over the years I've been consistently impressed.

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