Having problems in shop with teams and Company thinks its just working great.

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Hi, My name is Jim Jenison and I help my company put work team in a year ago. I have seen them go up and down and now they are not working together very well. I tried to tell my company that we missed some training when we put this together but they say that the teams are doing just great. I do not now how I can get their attention to show them that we need more training to get use where we need to be in a Self-Directed Work team environment. Here are some problems I see in our teams. 1) We have a three shift operation and the three shifts cannot seem to work together from shift to shift or even come to agreement together to solve a problem. 2) Our supervisors do not want to give up the power they have to direct the teams. The company say's they are doing real good but they do not empower the teams or recognize them when they do well. 3) Our Engineers do not work very well with the people to solve the problems that come up on the floor. The workers know how to fix it but when they try the engineer stops them and does it his way. 4) We have a Union and people think sense we have a Union that we do not have to do work teams even knowing it is in the contract.

Can you help me with trying to get my company to see the real problem with our work teams so we could get it turned around to the better before they move the plant. Because this was brought up to us about moving the plant if we could not turn stuff around. One thing I asked them is if I could be a CIP director to over look the team and get the training in here to get us going and they are looking at it right now. But the big question they asked was what benefit or pay back would they get from it. I told them better work teams and a better educated people. If their is any other benefit that you might see could you help me out please.

Thank you for your time, Jim Jenison.

-- Jim Jenison (bjenison@aol.com), July 23, 2002


Sounds similar to what I face. After first reading your post, what came to my mind was the need for an outside experienced consultant to deal with the high-level management. In addition, you will need internal facilitators who are trained at intervening in dysfunctional teams. I hear several problems other than just training in your post. Some of these are lack of empowerment, resistance to teaming, poor feed back from teams to upper management, misunderstanding of the purpose of teams, no solid team foundation, and a severe relationship problem between the teams and the people that are supposed to be supporting them. It sounds like the program lacks commitment to understanding the problems the teams have. This may be happening because the bottom line looks good. I suggest setting up an oversight committee. It should be made up of top-level managers and union leadership (hopefully the union is supportive as many unions now have similar programs). This oversight committee should regularly review the teams systematically. A format for teams to present both what is working well and what is not working well, should be established for the reviews. In addition, I would develop a team measurement process, consisting of some type of empowerment measurement and a member self assessment that measures the relationship and behavioral models of teams. This would help the leadership to see more that just the numbers. Generally if there is not a clear objective indicator of team effectiveness to the upper management, it is unlikely that anything will change in the lower management ranks. I will tell you this, you have a huge task, and it will take commitment and hard work.

-- Mark Vilbert (mark.t.vilbert@boeing.com), August 19, 2002.

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