Connecting with John Mackey od

I didn’t know much about John Mackey until I read “The Anarchist’s Cookbook.” Learning about his values, management style, personal lifestyle, and overall beliefs regarding an organization has allowed me to make connections in several different areas. First of all, I don’t mean to criticize, but I am legitimately confused as to why he is a vegan based on values (as opposed to preference) when the company he owns offers animal products. The article states that, “He’s now a vegan, on the principal that all food causes harm to the animals that produce it.” Obviously offering animal products is crucial to helping them stay afloat and turn a profit, but the article also says that Mackey is not interested in money, so why didn’t he just remove himself from the business altogether?

I understand that Whole Foods makes a point to insure that all of their animals are treated very well, so why doesn’t he just stick to eating only Whole Foods animal products? It just seems to me that if he switched to veganism for the purpose of making a statement, his statement is weakened by his own company’s offering of meat, dairy, etc. Maybe there’s a bigger picture here that I’m not seeing…
In terms of management style, Mackey’s method reflects that of Yvon Chouinard, the CEO and founder of Patagonia. Everything Patagonia does as a company is completely environmentally friendly, and Chouinard places as much value on his employees as Mackey seems to do. Both CEOs encourage innovation and independent thinking among their employees, and I think that this has largely contributed to the success of each. Chouinard is adamant about giving employees time off to explore and research something they are personally interested in, often resulting in the betterment of the company when they return with whatever knowledge or expertise they have acquired. Both CEOs seem to have mastered the idea of intrinsic motivation and have used it to the advantage of their companies. The expertise and experience expected of the Whole Foods staff not only benefits the employer by giving them a sense of purpose and pride, but also makes for a much more enjoyable shopping experience for the customer.
Another thing that caught my attention on a personal level in the “The Anarchist’s Cookbook” was that Mackey and his wife raise chickens on their Texas farm. My mom raises chickens as one of her many hobbies, and I must say it’s been quite a treat for our family (actually my dad might disagree with that after numerous times of finding chicken poop on his car). First of all, it is nice to know that you are eating eggs from chickens who are, relatively speaking, treated like kings. The chickens are allowed to roam free all day (although they tend to stay within an acre of the barn), their coop is kept very clean, and they are never deprived of food or water. My mom keeps the fridge in the barn stocked with their eggs, keeping an open-door policy with family and friends who want some farm fresh eggs. She does not charge anything for two reasons: 1. If for any reason her eggs made someone sick and she had charged for them, she could be sued; and 2. Her reason for doing it in the first place was to have fun with it and eat yummy, healthy (high in Omega 3) eggs, not to turn a profit. She does, however, ask that anyone who comes and takes eggs make a few dollar-donation to one of the charities she’s involved in.
Our discussion today about people reverting back to the days of home grown food options seemed pretty pessimistic. Unfortunately, I have to agree, even though my own family has chicken who produce fresh eggs. As fun and convenient as it is to have this option, having to rely on it for survival would be a different story. The upkeep and maintenance that would be required to run an operation that could feed our own family of six and others around us is unfathomable to me. As I mentioned today in class, people are inherently resistance to move “backwards,” so any solution that we come up with is going to have to have some clear, tangible sign of progress and innovation.

3 Responses

  1. You make an interesting connection between Mackey and Chouinard. Many of these ‘alternative management methods tend to stress employee freedom and and happiness. They seem to believe in the theory that by treating employees with respect that employees will pass along that respect to the customers. So in a way management has taken a step back: focus on the employee, not the customer. By doing the customer is better served.

  2. Not being interested in money is not the same as not being interested in success. Money is a way to judge how successful you are in some other domain: like customer satisfaction or beating your competitors.

  3. I am very interested in your idea of reluctance to move backwards. That may be accurate, but at the level of perception as opposed to measurable factors. For example, there is more woodland in the Eastern US now then at any point since 1800. Or, the purchasing power of an average worker’s wages is lower now that 30 years ago. Or, we are abandoning maned space travel for automated 40 years after the great moon race.

    So, back to the land has to be packaged as progress!

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