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Former Porsche CEO: How to Rev up Workers

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It’s the people, Stupid.

That’s the basic message one business leader is trying to get across to

managers. You can be running the best technology and coming up with

top-notch marketing plans, but if your workers aren’t passionate about

what you’re doing, you’re just spinning your wheels.

And this is one man who has put his own philosophy to the test.

Peter Schutz joined Porsche AG as its CEO back in 1980 when the high-end

auto maker was struggling. Porsche had been losing money for years when

Schutz arrived, leaving him the daunting prospect of turning the company

around in a small window of time. And by revving up the company’s

employees, that’s exactly what he did.

During the eight years that Schutz was leading Porsche, he got employees

excited about their jobs — not just the top designers or engineers,

either. In an interview with Datamation, Schutz says he saw his

job as getting every single employee excited about what they needed to do

at Porsche.

And it worked. Schutz says when he left the company, Porsche had no debt

and was earning about $150 million a year after taxes. Schutz also says

the same rules apply whether you’re managing an entire international

company or if you’re leading an IT department.

Here Schutz, who just authored The Driving Force: Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People, talks about how the people make a successful business, how to

make workers passionate about their jobs, and the mistakes that managers

tend to make.

Q: In your book, you say it’s the people and not the business. What

exactly do you mean?

Yogi Berra, who is my favorite philosopher, says baseball is about 50

percent about fielding and pitching, and 90 percent about people. It’s

the same with business. It’s the people in the business. And even more

importantly, it’s the customers. They’re our only source of revenue.

Q: Do you find that most business or IT managers understand this


I always hope so, but I don’t think so. I’ve spent my time for the last

10 years trying to communicate that message to managers. I hope that some

of them are getting it, but it’s tough. If you’re running a business

that’s owned by people who have no interest except what they can walk

away with, then it’s difficult to get through to them. If the customers

are not doing business with you, then you really aren’t going to be


Q: What about the employees?

Without the employees the technology will not get implemented in a useful

way. If your employees are not buying into the technology and the whole

marketing concept, then it’s difficult to make the business profitable.

And it’s not all about the super stars. They cannot perform if they don’t

have a supporting cast of ordinary people who do extraordinary things.

The whole thing to making a business succeed is making ordinary people so

enthused and have so much passion about what you’re trying to do that

they will end up yielding extraordinary results… I was watching a game

last night… It’s a bunch of ordinary people committed and playing with

more passion than the other team can match.

Q: How do you make employees passionate about their jobs?

There was a construction site with three men doing the same thing. A

passerby stopped and asked the first man, ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘I

am busting rocks.’ he answered. The passerby asks the second one, ‘What

are you doing here?’ And remember that he’s doing the same thing. But

this time the answer is, ‘I’m earning my living.’ If people believe they

are busting rocks to earn a living and they put their heads together to

figure out how to make this a better job, chances are they’ll cook up a

plan to bust fewer rocks to make more money. In business school, they

teach you to get them to bust more rocks for less money. This all doesn’t

make sense. The passerby asks the third man, ‘What are you doing here?’

He answers, ‘I am helping my colleagues build a temple.’

People working together toward a shared objective will outperform people

who are busting rocks every time. For whom are we going to build a

temple? For our customers. Not for the managers. Not for the owners or

shareholders, but for the customers. If you get an organization of people

doing that, then I have found you have a huge success. You will have a

bunch of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Q: So what did you do when you got to Porsche?

In 1981, I suggested we go and win the big 24-hour race in Le Mans,

France. That united the whole company. When Porsche hired me, the problem

was we had people who knew how to design cars, people who knew how to

build cars and people who knew how to sell cars. They didn’t work

together. They were all fighting. I needed to get all these people on the

same page. Getting them on the same page turned out to be getting them to

win that 24-hour race. Almost overnight people were working together to

build the temple. They suddenly had the same objective. We won that race

big time and we never looked back. They got the idea that once we work

together we could do anything we wanted to do. Suddenly everything was


A similar thing happened to our country when Jack Kennedy said, ‘Let’s go

to the moon.’ Suddenly, the whole country had an objective. Our best and

brightest youngsters decided to study engineering because they wanted to

be part of it. In a negative sense, that’s what happened when the

Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. It united people.

Q: What are the mistakes that managers tend to make?

One huge mistake is to focus on making money instead of trying to build a

temple for the customer. Many people work on the cost side of the

business instead of the benefit side. If your biggest objective is to

reduce your costs, it’s unlikely you’ll get an organization of people

inspired and excited about that. Instead, if you say we’re going to find

a cure for cancer, then people will be excited.

Q: But if a company is making widgets or software, there’s no big auto

race or fight against cancer. How do you get IT workers excited then?

Watch Steve Jobs and what happened with Macintosh and now it’s the iPod.

The people who work on projects like that develop a passion and you can

see the results.

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