Dozens of U.S. companies now offer formal workshops, seminars, and tours for outsiders who want to know how they manage employees and operations. Here's the rundown on some of the most popular places.
AT&T Universal Card
Profile Program Day-long program and tour of customer service center handling 1.5 million calls a month. Features lively and candid presentations by managers from departments of information services, quality, customer relations, and human resources. There's also a gee-whiz demo of Universal's high-tech systems, which allow employees to pull up complete records on customers calling in even before the staffers pick up the phone. Buffet lunch in company cafeteria features managers and/or employees at each table. Day ends with Q&A session with a top executive. Maximum group is 25; held every Tuesday and Wednesday.
COST: $375 ($285 for nonprofit visitors)
CONTACT: Paula Chaon, Jacksonville, Fla.
Disney'S Approach to
People Management; Quality Service;
Creative Leadership; Orientation Your children will envy your visit to these business briefings by Disney: Each of the four core programs includes passes to Disney's theme parks. In the People Management seminar, Disney managers explain the company's "pixie-dust" formula for managing and tell how you can sprinkle it on your own organization. Theme park managers do most of the presentations. There's even a tour of Disney's hidden infrastructure, the six-acre underground tunnels beneath the Magic Kingdom. Maximum group size is 70; held at least monthly.
COST: $2,295 for 31/2-day sessions, including three nights at Disney Yacht Club or Contemporary Resort hotel and free passes to Disney's theme parks; $1,480 for 21/2-day orientation seminar
CONTACT: Disney University Professional Development Seminars, Lake Buena Vista, Fla. 407 824-4855
Federal Express Quality Forum Night owls will love this intriguing glimpse into FedEx's expansive package-handling facility. The hub tour begins at 10:30 p.m., just as planes are descending here to drop off and load packages for next-day delivery. The next morning, visitors hear managers discuss the company's "people-service-profit" philosophy as well as its human-resource and customer service policies. A vice-president spends an hour before lunch answering questions. After lunch, members of a "quality action team" discuss their work. FedEx ends the day with a highly popular session on how it measures service quality. Maximum group size is 35; held twice monthly; special group forums also available.
COST: $250, including lunch and the late-night hub tour
CONTACT: Dolores Green, Memphis 901 395-3461
Leading the Journey Full-day workshop begins at 8:30 a.m. over coffee and sweet rolls at City Streets, a local restaurant on the Lake Michigan waterfront. There's an hour-long slide show on the company's move to self-managing teams before the program highlight--a freewheeling two-hour session with five employees and managers. The picnic lunch features Johnsonville bratwurst and Italian sausage. Afternoon sessions explore the company's incentive-pay plans and mistakes. Ends at 4 p.m. Drawbacks? The restaurant is the closest you get to Johnsonville, located six miles away. The company stopped giving plant tours after employees complained that chats with outsiders prevented them from doing their work. Maximum group size is 25; workshops are held monthly.
COST: $235, including lunch and a copy of CEO Ralph Stayer's book, Flight of the Buffalo
CONTACT: Elaine Crawford, Sheyboygan, Wis. 414 459-7139
Motorola's Quality Briefing Aficionados of the quality movement have made this stop a must. This eight-hour seminar provides managers with an inside glimpse of how Motorola created and manages its Six Sigma quality culture. The session also includes segments on "total cycle time reduction" and "total customer satisfaction." In the afternoon, visitors hear how Motorola University spreads the quality gospel. The briefings have become so popular that Motorola even brings the show on the road (this year to hotels in Phoenix and Austin). An added bonus: For a limited time, Motorola is giving the first 50 participants a free cordless telephone. Held eight times a year.
COST: $395, including continental breakfast and lunch
CONTACT: Abbi Sedivec, Schaumburg, Ill. 708 576-7917
The Saturn Plant Tour and Productivity's High-Performance Workshop For car buffs and manufacturing types, you can't beat this two-day program featuring a tram tour of General Motors' innovative Saturn factory. The program's focus is on employee involvement and "visual controls"--a way to organize a factory more efficiently. The morning tour is followed by lunch and a Q&A session with two or three Saturn employees who describe their team-based approach to work. After the first day, visitors hole up in a local hotel for a workshop in Japanese manufacturing concepts and how they relate to the Saturn experience. Maximum group size is 60; held once a month.
COST: $895, including lunches and "high-performance productivity" workshop by Productivity, Inc.
CONTACT: Maureen Fahey, Norwalk, Conn.
203 846-3777. Saturn tour in Spring Hill, Tenn.
The Great Game of Business Two-day seminar on "open-book management" begins with story of company's spin-off from International Harvester and the decision by owner-managers to train employees to understand the company's financials and to share that data with them on a regular basis. Visitors are shuttled from the headquarters building to a gritty plant where engines are remanufactured. The day's highlight: Guests are allowed to sit in on the monthly meeting at which the company's managers and employees go over all the numbers. "Nobody holds back even though we have visitors here," says CEO Jack Stack. "You can't. The numbers have got to come out. And you see the anger, frustration, and humor of it all." Maximum group size is 50; seminars are held monthly.
COST: $1,250, including two nights of lodging, all meals, and an autographed copy of Stack's book The Great Game of Business
CONTACT: Charlotte Ecksley, Springfield, Mo.
The Quality Journey Who said you can't get a free lunch anymore? This private insurance company not only feeds visitors breakfast and lunch but doesn't charge for its day-long program. A company van even picks up guests at a local Marriott at 7:50 a.m. and returns them at the end of the program at 5:15 p.m. The morning sessions focus on the company's employee-friendly culture, its emphasis on customer satisfaction, and its "continuing strides to excellence." Visitors walk through the largest private office building in the world to one of five cafeterias for lunch with a USAA executive. In the afternoon, they attend one of three breakout sessions on information services, customer service, or human resources and training. "What really wows them is the building," says a USAA spokesman. "I don't care if they are from IBM. No one has ever seen a building so intelligently designed for employees." Maximum group size is 60; no more than three visitors from one company at any time; program is held monthly.
CONTACT: Angelo de Guttadauro, San Antonio