I entered the business world in 1976 though a dark deep tunnel.
The shaft was 2.5 miles deep. The tunnels were an interwoven tapestry that made up hundreds of miles. It was dark, very hot and extremely dangerous. The environment was designed to kill you and the engineering was designed to keep you alive.
Gold. Tons of gold. All kept safely embedded for billions of years in bedrock thousands of feet below the ground in the Free State province in South Africa—but not safely enough for the teams of engineers and miners working under the earth. Each day they advanced, meter by meter, removing the solidified nectar ounce by ounce.
I was 19 going on 45. I had entered the famed gold mines of Africa and nothing prepared me for this challenge—not even a year of solid military training and patrolling terrorist havens.
How would 12,000 people get down a series of shafts every day and then proceed to workplaces far below the earth’s surface? Once contacting the gold reef, how would we mine it? How would we get into areas no higher than 28 inches and drill by hand into the gold reef while lying on our sides with billions of tons of bedrock an inch from our heads?
What on earth was our motivation? What got us out of our warm beds every day at 4 AM, to dress in dank basic overalls, hard hats with safety lights, and report for duty at the entrance of the shaft and then enter the claustrophobic high speed lifts that would drop us at terminal velocity (the maximum constant speed reached by a falling object) hundreds of feet below the surface in the world’s deepest mines? What could possibly keep us doing this day after day, week after week and year after year? It was not for the gold—that belonged to Harry Oppenheimer & Sons. It was not for the monthly wage—no amount of money could get most men down that hole. What was it then? And what is it now…?
In the glory days of gold mining in Africa from the 1960’s through to the 1980’s a man was paid directly for his production. We were known as Production Gold Miners. For each ounce of gold removed and brought to the surface, x amount of dollars were paid. Here were the workings of a group of men, all focused from management all the way down to the drilling and blasting teams in removing metric ton after metric ton of gold bearing ore. Each meter advanced = more and more bonus. The quality of the ore removed produced a Production Formula and that determined the income of everyone in each team. But bonuses were determined by quality and quantity and none of this was ever a guarantee.
There were underground faults to consider—great breaks in the Earth’s crust that shifted the gold bearing rock up and away or down and gone—and with it the elusive gold reef. There were underground lakes that would flood the operations, not to mention rockfalls and seismic earth tremors measuring 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale. Temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit that would give a man heat exhaustion in 20 minutes or heat stroke within seconds. In fact, think of a barrier that is designed to stop you from reaching a goal and the mining industry probably presents it to you. Teams were made up of 16 different languages from tribes that once were at war with one another, run by burly Afrikaners, Englishmen and the occasional Italian thrown in.
It had to be something to do with the excitement of production, the challenge, the adventure—why the hell was everyone in such a good mood?
It made no sense until years later when I learned something of the Hubbard Administrative Technology.
On 14 May, 1972 L. Ron Hubbard wrote an article called Morale.
“Production is the basis of morale.
“If one can get a unit producing and actually accomplishing worthwhile production, then their morale will rise.”
And in our mining operation, production had to be measured, it had to be quantified and qualified and it had to produce a valuable final product (gold ore dug up and turned over). Automatically without me or the Mine Management knowing it, the “in your face” principles of life and the technology of administration were being applied to keep the game going. Here was a backdrop that in order to survive one had to know his business, plan properly and work effectively as a team. You either did these things or you died—or worse still, killed your crew through total stupidity.
Just keeping thousands of workers motivated meant you had to be competent and protect those who were being productive.
Despite the harsh operating climate, morale was high because were knew what we were doing, we worked as a team, and above all, we were productive.
Had I known the Hubbard Administrative Technology when I was 19, I probably would not have not left the mines in 1984 to seek my fortune elsewhere. I would have stayed and probably would have saved the mining industry from destruction and thousands upon thousands of jobs lost.
You see, what happened when I left the bustling and productive gold mining town of Welkom, was that the bright new science of “Industrial Relations” became fashionable and their programs kicked in, run by pioneering industrial psychologists who infiltrated the mining industry and took over the personnel departments, operations and quality control divisions of these mining companies.
Suddenly the Gold Mining Producers were targeted, those underground heroes who knew the value of each drop of their sweat and blood.
It was “unfair” these producers were earning all the bucks while the office workers (like the Industrial Psychologists) earned far less. This was not a good thing according to them. It was not democratic. It was not sustainable. It was unacceptable that the men risking their lives each day should shine above these learned university men on the surface.
Between 1990 and 2000 the majority of the most famous gold mines of South Africa had shut down, the staff dismissed and the hyena teams of salvage operators let loose to plunder the scrap metal of the mine infrastructures. Underground pumps were switched off and the gold bearing areas were flooded. Some made millions in this process and are still doing so today. But the many thousands of producers have gone, though the mines are far from depleted.
It saddens me to see what Welkom has since become. The streets are dusty and unkept. The town’s former glory has died.
At least I’m still alive. Alive and well in fact. Using what I know of Hubbard Administrative Technology, I started my own business.
It’s doing well. Well enough to enable me to contribute to worthwhile charitable programs, so that I can leave a legacy befitting the administrative technology which made it all possible.
And with what I have learned, I’m able to avoid the potential cave-ins that beset any entrepreneur, all while protecting the productive staff that help me strike gold every day.