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Moving from traditional to contemporary management in manufacturing

Assembly line workers now follow contemporary management principles at many plants.
Assembly line workers now follow contemporary management principles at many plants.Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The traditional management style of the early 1900s is only producing results in a handful of organizations today. It is being replaced by a contemporary management style that increases employee contributions in remarkable ways. These contemporary management cottage start to professors at the University of Michigan was perfected overseas by companies such as Toyota and Sony.

It was not until the late 1990s the contemporary management be perfected by companies such as Amazon.com, Google, Southwest Airlines and others. These American companies proved it is adaptable to American workers is only natural that manufacturing companies would take a look at it as an alternative to the worn-out traditional practices.

Symptoms
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Symptoms

An automobile assembly plant was struggling to meet the productivity and profit requirements of the 21st century. Despite dabbling in contemporary management nothing in proven to be successful. Employees initially thought that empowerment and teamwork would improve results that optimism had long faded due to several failed attempts at transforming the workplace.

Both union and management believe strongly that change was needed and that the global management model used by Toyota and others would provide for advantageous results at their facility. The question would be how to roll out of program that will get broad support even after the prior failed attempts.

Diagnosis
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Diagnosis

Through a combined effort it was determined that both white and blue collar workers would attend mandatory training sessions. It was believed that by having staff from multiple departments and all levels of employment from new hire to plant manager attend sessions together it would be seen as a global effort.

With union and management officials agreeing to take part of the programs alongside rank-and-file it would be clear that this would not be another failed start at reinventing the way this planted business. Anything short of full participation would send a clear message that this program was nothing better than prior attempts.

Prescription
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Prescription

All employees were scheduled in groups of 15 to 30 participants in weeklong classes. At the same time plant signage supported the program by providing new communication vehicles to report inefficiencies, impediments and other areas of lost opportunity.

The schedule was developed to promote as much cross pollination as possible so that plan employees with fully understand the diversity of positions in the importance each played. It was quickly learn that participants needed to be completely relieved of their regular responsibilities during their week of training as early participants would sometimes attempt to get out of classes by creating a need on the shop floor.

The curriculum was further enhanced by showing the value of certain elements, such as interpersonal relationships, beyond just the workplace.

Prognosis
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Prognosis

Corporate executives had made it clear that this plan would not be receiving additional work unless it successfully adopted contemporary management as would be evidenced by output. The same executives were pleased with the initial results of a no determination until completion of the program and an appropriate period for the program to take effect.

The time clock ran out six months after the program was completed. The turmoil the automotive industry in early 2009 forced management make a determination on the future the plant. Taking a hard look at the results from the program it was determined the plan had become so competitive that it was taken from the disciplinary one shift operation to full three shift operation.

©2014 Max Impact, used with permission.

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