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Weekend Conference Presentation
Opening Keynote Session - June 10th

It's Not the Technology, It's the Neurology
Presented by Bob Browne
Primary Focus: Cultural Transformation
Secondary Focus: Understanding Systems


Abstract: Command & Control is out. The emergence of Intrinsic Values is in. It's about Process Control Cultures.

In the summer of 1980, NBC News presented a documentary, "If Japan Can, Why Can't We?," to offer an explanation of the contrast between the growing Japanese economy and the slowing US economy. Significant credit to Japan's success was given to the application of quality control methods, under the direction of W. Edwards Deming, beginning with his visits to Japan in 1950. Within a few years, hundreds of US executives were inspired by their interpretation of Dr. Deming's ideas for quality improvement.

Building upon the lessons learned from Dr. Deming, the Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Company followed suit, beginning in 1990. In due time, Great Plains re-evaluated established principles of western business. The successful transformation of Great Plains to world-class performance presents an example of the possibilities of adopting holistic practices. This presentation will address two questions: "If Japan could, why couldn't we?" and "If Great Plains did, why don't others?"

As a keynote speaker, Bob's presentation was "translated" into a 4ft by 15ft mural by our graphic recorder, Greg Whicker. Click on image for an expanded view.

Bob Browne




Bob Browne

Biography: Bob Browne is a true American original. A Vietnam veteran and native Oklahoman with a top-notch upbringing in traditional western business, Browne orchestrated a leveraged buyout of Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Company in 1980. For the ten years that followed, he successfully operated the company in the traditional western ways.

But something wasn't right, and he knew it. He began to feel that the style of management he'd been taught was not complete. He began to study broadly, and his openness to alternative management philosophies eventually drove his interest beyond the day-to-day of running the company. In 1990, he began a decade-long journey of re-evaluating those established principles of western business - motivation by incentive, management by objectives, and emphasis on shareholder wealth - that he'd been taught as fact in school. Slowly, under his leadership, Great Plains became less and less traditional - but more holistic, more successful, more innovative, more fun, and more curious. That is, it became more alive. In this time, Browne steered a cultural U-turn for Great Plains, all while driving the company to record profits and industry-leading customer and employee satisfaction.

For more than a decade, until his retirement in 2012, Great Plains was considered world-class by any measurement you choose. With characteristic humility, Browne attributes this transformation not to anything he did, but rather to what he didn't do. He simply allowed the people of Great Plains to take charge of their own work, in an environment free of fear. The voice of the process and the voice of the customer became their collective guide. And, gradually, Great Plains became a living example of the term, "emerging complexity"... a term Browne explains with his quote at the top of this page.

In 2012, Browne capped off his 32 years as CEO by selling Great Plains to The Coca-Cola Company. In his first book, Sys-Tao, Browne has condensed this long and meandering path of discovery into a set of principles, laid out anecdotally in his down-to-earth manner, that will be of great interest and aid to any open-minded student of American business's changing landscape.

Bob lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, Karen. He has taught at the University of Oklahoma's Price College of Business, and he continues to lecture on the subject of his book, Sys-Tao: Western Logic ~ Eastern Flow.

Contact: Bob can be reached by e-mail at robertfbrowne@me.com for additional information about this Weekend Conference session



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