William L. McKnight, who served as 3M chairman of the board from 1949 to 1966, encouraged 3M management to "delegate responsibility and encourage men and women to exercise their initiative."
His management theories are the guiding principles for 3M. Our heritage dates back more than 100 years, and McKnight's principles continue to accompany us in the 21st century.
William L. McKnight Management Principles Created 3M's Corporate Culture
William L. McKnight joined Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. in 1907 as an assistant bookkeeper. He quickly rose through the company, becoming president in 1929 and chairman of the board in 1949.
Many believe McKnight's greatest contribution was as a business philosopher, since he created a corporate culture that encourages employee initiative and innovation.
His basic rule of management was laid out in 1948:
"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."