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William McKnight: The Basic Rule of Management that Propelled 3M

William L. McKnight

In 1907 William L. McKnight joined Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co (3M) as an assistant bookkeeper. He rose quickly through the ranks and became president in 1929 and chairman of the board in 1949. His timeless management philosophy, laid out below, encouraged 3M management to “delegate responsibility and encourage men and women to exercise their initiative.”

The Basic Rule of Management

As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.

Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.

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Still curious? Pair with David Packard’s 11 Simple Rules For Getting Along With Others.

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