In the face of adversity—when pressure mounts or calamity seems imminent—an organization’s purpose is put to the ultimate test. Every organization faces one or multiple forms of stress at some point in its existence. An organization that endures any form of financial hardship or business loss will regularly be forced to test its purpose, to test its standing in society.
Since inception in 1945, Johnsonville Sausage LLC has believed in delivering sound business results. Profit is important, otherwise there would be no business. It does so, however, within an organizational purpose that indeed serves all stakeholders. This company of 1,500 employees produces all sorts of sausages, meatballs, and bratwurst from various facilities, including its headquarters in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. Ralph C. Stayer, who has been the visionary and owner for the past 40 years, has taken the company from a regional sausage supplier within Wisconsin to the global player it is today. The company has sales in excess of $1 billion annually.
In the spring of 2015, Johnsonville Sausage suffered a disastrous situation in which it was forced to test its organizational purpose. On May 11 of that year, a freak incident of physics and biology occurred at one of the company’s largest facilities where it produces sausages. At this particular location in Watertown, Wisconsin, a combination of oil, pressure and heat mixed up with a pair of gloves that were inadvertently put in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
What did Johsonville Sausage do when it experienced an event that could have ruined their entire culture, and perhaps their financial stability? Did the company ignore the organizational purpose it had worked hard to inculcate across its business? Did it neglect the employees who had committed to working with a higher meaning, and to the organization’s declaration of purpose which was “To become the best company in the world”?