Case Study on Work Teams

Case Study on Work Teams Theism’s Diagnosing Whether an Organization Is Truly Ready to Empower Work Teams: A Case Study Thomas J. Bergmann and Kenneth P. De Mouse, Professors of Management, University of Wisconsin Department of Management and Marketing his case study examined employee perceptions regarding the level of organizational readiness to move toward team-based management.

The sample consisted of 11 managers, 18 team leaders, and 123 team members in a multinational food manufacturing plant.

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Although all three groups indicated a moderate level of readiness, the plant experienced great difficulty implementing the team concept. One-way analysis of ‘arrange indicated that team members scored significantly lower than team leaders and managers on nine of 18 survey items. In-depth interviews with plant mangers and team leaders revealed there was widespread confusion regarding what the team approach was, the speed with which it should be implemented, and the impact it Mould have on Jobs.

The introduction of the “team concept” in the work place is one of the leading strategies US corporations are using in the asses to gain a competitive advantage. Leading companies such as American Express, Disney, Ford, General Mills, Hewlett-Packard, and Shell Oil are using empowerment techniques to increase organizational effectiveness and employee morale. Recent surveys have reported up to 70 percent of US companies are employing some version of self- managed work teams (SMUT) or high-performance work teams (Domain, 1994; McCann & Buckler, 1994; Statesman, 1993).

McCann and Buckler found, however, that only about one-third of human resource professionals believed that power and decision making were truly being shifted to lower levels within the organization. They questioned whether empowerment was being directed from the top-down without the corresponding movement of power. They called for additional research to obtain teeter understanding of what actually is occurring in organizations empowering their employees.

The purpose of this case analysis is to exploit e the perceived readiness to an organization to implement the team concept.

Boot quant I t dative and qualitative analyses are performed to examine the different perceptions of managers, team leaders, and team members with regard to the team concept. Suggestions are made on how to more effectively introduce and implement the team concept. Unit (Case, 1995). Table I highlights the key differences between a traditional management’s company and one employing team-based management. The event toward teams is a dramatic change for most organizations and, as with any significant change, organizational members face many impediments and considerable reluctance.

A substantial body of literature suggests that executives, managers, and first-level supervisors frequently resist relinquishing their decommissioning power and authority (Breezes, 1994; De Mouse, 1994; Shipper & Mans, 1992; Stayed, 1990). For example, Harley-Davidson encountered difficulty at the executive level when it began empowering work teams in the asses. Not only did the employees and supervisors have difficulty adjusting, but the senior executives existed as well. Mr..

Vaughn Bella, Chairman of the Board, declared “the percentage of senior management that survived the transition was pretty remonstrating to Team-Based Management Traditional Organizations Team-Based Organizations Man augment-driven Isolated specialists Many Job descriptions Information limited Many management levels Departmental focus Management-controlled Policy/ procedure-based Selection-based reemployment Top-down performance appraisal Autocratic leadership Change is temporary Seemingly organized Incremental improvement High management commitment

Customer-driven Multi-skilled work force Few Job descriptions Information shared Few management levels Whole business focus Team-regulated Values/principles- based Training-based employment 360-degree feedback Participative leadership Change is ongoing Seemingly chaotic Continuous improvement (“Kamikaze”) High Knower commitment J s business has accepted the general concept of empowering employees. However, there is considerable disagreement regarding what empowering employees and teams actually means (Domain, 1994).

There appears to be a high level of agreement among managers that empowering teams is desirable but a great deal of agreement on what it is they, as managers, should do to implement it! The most common definition of team-based management is that it is an evolutionary process in Inch team members eventually are “empowered” to make all decisions relevant to the functioning of their work Adapted from Willies, Bahamas, & Wilson 099]). 39 small…

. You Just get to the point where you can’t tolerate people who are nonbelievers. They have to go” (Breezes, 1994, p. 1). Likewise, at Shelby Die Casting, the organization identified supervisors as the barrier to implementation of the team concept and terminated them. The company then trained employees to start managing themselves (Ecuador, 1994).

Likewise, lower-level employees often are reluctant to accept the new responsibility required of team-based management. Ream members who have been shaped over the years to make few, if any, decisions may show a strong reluctance to “latch-on” to newfound power when suddenly cast in the role of team member.

Employees come to the work place with certain expectations and beliefs that may lead them to question the motives involved here. Americans have become accustomed to accepting authority and often question the underlying reason for expansion of the employee’s role in the work place (Ecuador, 1994). Employee reluctance may involve more than Just a reluctance to assume power; it may involve a questioning of the team concept itself. American Individualism is intimately interwoven into the fabric of American life.

The most important consideration when transitioning an organization is the evolutionary nature of the team empowerment process (Francis & Young, 1992). Too often management has the unstated assumption that employee empowerment occurs as quickly and easily as turning on a light switch. All top management has to say is “we are a team-based company” and, presto, darkness turns to light. On the contrary, empowerment needs to be shared with employees gradually. Lois McCarthy, training director at Shelby Die Casting states it’s like teaching a bird to fly. It takes while” (Ecuador, 1994, p.


She believes that it takes well over three years to transform the work group into a self-managed work team. The bottom-line is that a partnership between employee and management needs to develop. Time is needed for the team to clarify roles, to build relationships, and to identify an effective process It can use to manage itself (Francis & Young, 1992). Inhere revolutionary leaps occur. When is an organization ready to move closer to team-based management? The focus of the present study is to obtain a better understanding of how different groups within a company perceive the readiness of that organization truly to empower employees.

Such an understanding may provide insight into manager, team member, and team member reluctance: Is it a resistance to change itself? A sense of inadequate preparation? A distrust of motives? A lack of confidence in one’s abilities? An uncertainty about expectations? METHOD The organization rhea data in this study were obtained in a fascinating manufacturing plant of a large multinational food company located in a midsized Midwestern city. The following three major product lines were processed at the plant: (a) infant formula ? both powder and liquid, (b) high protein adult drink, and (c) high concentration dietary drink.

The nature to the maturating process requires a high degree to interdependence between work units. The plant is unionized, but management and labor relations are stable. During data collection, management and the labor union negotiated a new entrant without labor disruption.

The plant employed approximately 40 people four [ears earlier, increasing employment to more than 150 at the time of the study. The basic organizational structure consists of three managerial layers. The “plant manager” has overall responsibility for all facility operations.

Ten functional ‘managers” report directly to the plant manager. Eighteen “team leaders” largely serve in the role of supervisors, reporting to the respective functional managers.

Underlying reason for expansion of the employee’s role in the work place. Data Collection he collection of data occurred in two phases. Phase I was a two-hour personal, structured interview with each manager and team leader in the plant. The participants were asked such questions as: (a) What does the team concept mean to you? (b) What additional training (skills) do your team members need to implement the team concept effectively? C) What do you personally see as the greatest drawback of the team concept? (d) What do you personally see as the greatest advantage of the team concept? (e) Do you feel the employees here generally understand what A Question of Readiness Effectively managing reluctance, clarifying employee roles, providing training, and defining the concept itself ? all aspects are part of the evolutionary process of team- based management. But even an evolutionary process has a beginning, and there are points within the process 40 HUMAN RESOURCE PLANNING all expressed a moderate level of team readiness.

However, the results suggested that team members were significantly less ready than were managers or team leaders.

The data revealed little consistency in perceptions across the three groups of respondents in terms of highest and lowest ratings. Managers gave their highest readiness rating to Question 3: “The nature of work in the plant lends itself to a team-based approach. ” They gave the lowest rating to Question 2: “Front-line employees can suggest improvements without going through several levels of approval. In contrast, team leaders rated “management’s willingness to invest money in training employees” the highest Phase II of the data collection occurred durries (Question 17), and “the adequacy of the plant’s a plant-wide activity day. The plant closed down team support functions” the lowest for the day and all team members IHA (Question 13). And finally, team anonymously completed the employer’s gave their highest rating sees’ survey as part of the day’s active- All interviewees to Question 16: “Front-line ties.

The Team Culture Readiness declared that they employees have the skills needed to Survey is comprised of 18 common preferred the team take greater control of their Jobs. ” questions designed to measure the They rated “team leaders’ woolgathering’s of respondents of the concept over the news to adjust responsibility readiness to the organization to move traditional managerial downward and radically change closer to team-based management. Heir own roles and behaviors” the Three unique questions were designed paper KHz. Sweets (Question 20). For team members only, which meat results from the qualitative analysis of the surer how they perceived their team leader’s data obtained during the interviews with the management of them as team members. The managers and team leaders revealed the following questions on this survey were developed from points.

First, all interviewees declared that they review of the literature (e. G.. Fisher, 1993; preferred the team concept over the traditional Fame, 1990), as well as preliminary interviews managerial approach.

Interviewees anticipated with a small sample of plant employees (see that the team concept ultimately would lead to a Table 2).

In total, 152 employees completed the positive Nor climate with improved communicative: 11 managers, 18 team leaders, and 123 action. Second, they believed that the team team members. Concept meant all employees are working toward a common goal. However, beyond that meaning Results of “working toward a common goal,” there was The mean scores on the Team Culture Readiness much confusion regarding a useful definition of Survey for the managers, team leaders, and team the team concept.

In addition, there was little members are presented in Table 2.

A one-way agreement regarding the speed and tactics that analysis of variance was used to determine if should be used to implement the concept. There was a significant difference in perceptions Because of this lack of vision, nearly all among managers, team leaders, and team interviewees expressed frustration with how the beers. Results show the team members have steam concept was functioning at the plant. Third, invariantly lower scores on nine of the 18 cometh amount of time needed to incorporate the moon survey items (as

On only one survey item the interviewees. Fourth, both managers and (Question 16) did team members have the highteam leaders believed the 24-hour shift schedule est mean score (albeit it was not statistically sighad a negative effect on application of the team niflcant). Overall, the grand means for the 18 concept.

Finally, and surprisingly, neither the items indicated that managers (M = 4. 3), team presence of the union nor inter-team competition leaders (M = 4.

4), and team members (M = 3. 9) HUMAN RESOURCE PLANNING 41 the company means by the team concept? (f) What barriers currently exist that prevent the team concept from being successful? And (g) What can top management do to facilitate the implementation of the team concept? Overall, the purpose of the Interview was to solicit general perceptions of how successfully the team concept was being implemented, where there were problems, and how to correct them.

At the end of the interview, each respondent was asked to complete a survey which was returned directly to the interviewer. The interviewer knew the identity of the respondent but the respondent was guaranteed anonymity. Comparing Manager, Team Leader, and Team Member Responses to the Team Culture Readiness Survey Note: Figures represent means computed from a six-point rating scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). The managers and team leaders were not asked to respond to Questions 19 to 21 .

Statement l.

Management believes that front-line employees can and should make the majority of sections that affect how they do their work. 2. Front-line employees can suggest and Implement improvements to their work without going through several levels of approval. 3. The nature of the work in your plant lends itself to a team-based approach rather than to individual effort.

4. The technology and physical design of [Our plant are flexible enough to permit restructuring based on the needs of the team concept. 5. It is possible to organize your work, so that teams of employees can take responsibility for entire Jobs. . There is enough complexity in Jobs to allow for initiative and decision making.

. The union is likely to agree to renegotiate traditional work rules and Job classifications to permit greater flexibility and autonomy. 8. Overall, employees are interested and willing to organize into teams. 9.

Four company has a history of following through on initiatives such as employee empowerment. 10. Your overall company culture, vision, and values support team- Nor and empowerment. 11. Plant management is willing to adjust responsibility downward and radically change its own roles and behaviors. 2.

Your company Is secure enough to guarantee a period of relative stability during which teams can evolve. 13. Your plant has adequate support functions, such as human resources, engineering, and maintenance, that can help teams by providing information, coaching, and training. 14, Plant management understands that developing teams is lengthy, time-consuming, and labor-intensive process, and is willing and able to make the investment. 15.

Your plant has systems in place to provide timely information to front-line employees. Manager 3. 8 Leader 3. 9 Member 3. 4 3.

5 4. 3 3. * 5. 2 4. 9 3.

9 4. 4 3. 9 4. 5 4. 7 4.

2 3. 8* 3. 2* 3. 9 4. 2 3.

6 4. 2 42 TABLE 2 (continued) Culture Readiness Survey Statement 16. Front-line employees have the skills needed to taste greater control of their Jobs. 17. Management is willing to invest the money in training all employees to be able to move toward a team-oriented company. 18.

Team leaders are willing to share control and authority as the plant moves advisor team decision making. 19. Team leaders believe that front-line employees can and should make the majority of decisions that affect how they do their work. 0. Team leaders are willing to adjust responsibility downward and radically change their own roles and behaviors.

21 . Team leaders understand that developing teams is a lengthy, mime-consuming, and labor-intensive process, and are willing and able to make the investment. *Denotes mean score is significantly lower than other(s); Manager Leader Member 3. 8 4. 6 4.

3* 4. 7 ? 3. 2* 3. 3 Nerve cited as barriers to implementation. In addition, the interviews revealed that the skills required by the team members in a company needed to change as the organization empowers work teams.

For example, the role of the team leader supervisor) now becomes one of a coordinator, facilitator, negotiator, communicator, and listener.

Consequently, the skills the team leader needs are different than those f the traditional manager. The team leader should have basic Job knowledge but does not have to be the technical expert all members rely on to deal with issues as they develop. In contrast, interpersonal communication and coaching activities become the dominant skill-set required of the effective team leader.

Likewise, the skills required to be an effective employee are quite different from those needed to be an effective team member. Organizations in the past have provided employees Ninth the technical training required to perform their Jobs.

However, the team approach mandates an additional set of skills. Skills such as solving problems, conducting meetings, communicating indecisively, listening, performing statistical and mathematical analysis, and resolving conflict now are needed. In organizations that empower teams, management has to allocate both the money and time to adequately train employees in areas beyond the technical.

Further, management has to be prepared to view such training as an ongoing activity, not a one-time expense. DISCUSSION erne implementation to team-based management NAS been widely embraced by the academic literature as a useful strategy for improving organizational performance ND employee morale (Fasten, 1991; McGregor, Reilly, & De Mouse, 1994; Overran, 1994).

In most cases, little attention has been given to how it should be implemented, how fast it should be implemented, or what barriers might make implementation difficult.

This study attempted to assess a plant’s readiness to incorporate higher degrees of team empowerment. The findings suggest that managers, team leaders, and team members may express a readiness to increase empowerment but may simultaneously lack the understanding to effectively implement it. HUMAN RESOURCE PLANNING 43 Although managers offered their verbal support of the team concept, their unwillingness to provide the necessary meeting time, adjust production schedules, manage rapid growth, be available during second and third shifts, and control excessive mandatory overtime spoke louder than their words.

Mitigates, tenant leaders, and tenant members all expressed a favorable view of the team concept in this study. A surprising result was that managers did not generally view the organization more ready for the team concept than team leaders did.

It appeared that the managers did not possess a shared vision of what team empowerment entails. Managers showed a lack of confidence in team leaders and team members. Specifically, managers expressed concerns with the plant’s information systems (Question 1 5), as well as with team member skills needed to take greater control of their work (Question 16).

Although managers offered their verbal support of the team concept, their unwillingness to provide the necessary meeting time, adjust production schedules, manage rapid growth, be available during second and third shifts, and control excessive mandatory overtime spoke louder than their Norms. Consequently, team members questioned management’s underlying ointment to team-based management.

That may, in part, account for the fact that team members had consistently lower scores on the Team Culture Readiness Survey than managers and team leaders.

During the past year, the plant appears to have made little progress in implementing the team concept. Based on conversations with several team leaders, production quotas continue to take precedence, meeting times remain problematic, managers are unwilling to share responsibility, and training In skills needed for team development lags. The plant manager has put on hold any further movement toward team-based management. Although the ratings on the survey generally were favorable, the team concept has stagnated.

The presence of favorable attitudes toward the team concept did not ensure that the organization achieved team empowerment.

Steven Gross, vice-president and managing director for Hay Management Consultants, observed that the lack of clearly communicating what is expected of employees is a key reason many team programs fail (Barton, 1995). Survey research has an implicit assumption that favorable employee attitudes will result in an effective implementation of the change program (Dunham & Smith, 1979). Clearly, the