Title: Herman Miller: Organizational Behavior

Title: Herman Miller: Organizational Behavior

Title: Herman Miller: Organizational Behavior

Length: 4:29

Synopsis: The video describes Herman Miller's organizational structure, emphasis on empowerment, product development process, and balance between production and people

Classroom Application: Senior VP, People Services, Tony Cortese explained how Herman Miller uses customer-based departmentalization together with a matrix organization. Both Tony and Director of Corporate Communications Mark Schurman emphasized the company's focus on employee empowerment. Tony said, "We empower the employees to get the work done in whatever fashion makes sense to produce the most innovative and creative solutions."

Point out to students the interesting case of how Herman Miller digested a failed product development process. The MetaForm team developed products to help aging baby boomers. The project was scrapped, but the research and product development became the foundation for the mega-selling Aeron chair.

Finish up Tony's description of the two-part performance review form. One part focuses on expected results, accountabilities, and technical skills. This is a focus on production. The second part emphasizes integrity, trust, and leadership skills. This is a focus on people. Tony said, "We really do weigh them equally."

Discussion Questions:

1. Is there a downside to Herman Miller's philosophy of empowering employees to get work done in whatever fashion makes sense?

Answer: Traditional concerns about looser controls are employee shirking and loafing. Another concern is that a work group might be efficient, but not effective at accomplishing company goals. This is why Herman Miller holds onto expectations of accountability in addition to providing opportunities to self-management.

2.As a manger, what will be your response when a product development effort fails?

Answer: Student answers will vary, but should reflect upon how Herman Miller used learning from the failed MetaForm effort to build products for an era revolving around personal computers and to develop the hugely successful Aeron chair.

3. When work groups have autonomy, they risk losing their way or bogging down in infighting. What stage of group development does this describe? What solution does the narrator suggest?

Answer: Losing the way and infighting describe the stage of storming. The narrator suggests energetic guidance from leaders. Management is the glue that holds a Herman Miller team together.


  1. Herman Miller pioneered the movement toward ______.
  1. open-air common spaces with cubicles
  2. closed offices
  3. telecommuting
  4. private offices

Answer: a

Explanation: As the company responsible for the first office cubicle, Herman Miller led the movement to open-air common spaces that fostered greater communication and collaboration.

  1. According to Tony Cortese, Senior VP, People Services, Herman Miller is structured around ______.
  1. vertical markets and a matrix organization
  2. geographic departments
  3. functional departments
  4. totally unstructured ad hoc teams

Answer: a

Explanation: Tony described structure around vertical markets. Then a matrix organization goes across the market structure. The company is set structurally in a fairly traditional fashion.

  1. Herman Miller project teams even include outside ______.
  1. customers
  2. competitors
  3. pressure groups
  4. suppliers

Answer: d

Explanation: Outside suppliers have seats on project teams.

  1. To keep information flowing and resolve misunderstandings and disputes, Herman Miller counts on ______.
  1. storming
  2. competition
  3. communication
  4. profit sharing

Answer: c

Explanation: At Herman Miller the ability to communicate is a critical requirement in all managers and team leaders.

  1. Which of the following does Herman Miller NOT consider on the second half of its performance review form?
  1. integrity
  2. technical skills
  3. trust
  4. leadership skills

Answer: b

Explanation: The second half of the performance review form emphasizes people skills such as integrity, trust, leadership skills, how the manager is developing others, and how the manager is working and playing with others.