Selfdirected Work Teams

.. r entire day in meetings. At Eaton Corporation in South Bend can, Indiana, some workers felt as if the self-directed work team movement had become somewhat of a cult. Members who are shy and not into team activities felt as if they were outcast. Other workers felt that some of their peers used the team concept to create clicks within the company. They felt as if these clicks were used to further outcast them or cause their removal from the company.

Still others expressed that they did not like the empowerment. They stated that, you feel more responsible for what you are doing and that makes you nervous. (Aeppel, 1997) Eaton Corporation has approximately 155 factories. The one in South Bend, Indiana has a 10 percent turnover rate. This is the highest of all the 155 factories (Aeppel, 1997).

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The bottom line is that not every worker is cut out for teamwork. Some people work much better alone and unsupervised. Why should these people be subjected to working in an environment that does not fit their personalities? One former union shop employee walked out after six months claiming that he did not like the team aspect. He explained they should have judged me on my job performance, not on how I interact with my teammates. (Aeppel, 1997) This is one of the major challenges faced by a human resource manager in many of today’s team based corporations. As stated earlier, if the work of a particular company does not require a small group of people with complimentary skills, it may not be the best approach for that company.

The biggest challenge to a company when deciding to institute a team direction is the proper implementation. If this is not done properly, the whole project can snowball into one big disaster. Such is the case at National Semiconductor Corporation. They first forced all of the 250 people in the information systems organization to actually reapply for their current positions. They then broke them down into teams and changed job responsibilities to fit those teams.

At first, the employees loved the idea. 5 months later, it was a completely different scene at National Semiconductor. The CEO, Gilbert F. Amelio, left his post and signed on with Apple Computer. That should have been the first indication that things were not so good. Then came not one, but two rounds of layoffs. Finally, Connie Deletis, VP of information services, conducted a study to see if the company could outsource its infrastructure efforts. Needless to say, in those five short months, morale went from an all-time high, to an all-time low.

If not for the hiring of new CEO Brian Halla, things would still be crashing to earth at rocket-like speeds. He came in and decided that it was not the concept that went wrong in the team implementation, but the planning was all wrong. He states, Tactical errors in planning can trip up months of painstaking planning (Garner, 1997). It took some time for the ship to be righted, but they now seem to be on the road to recovery. Rani Sandhu, the project manager for the problem management strategy, feels that they are a year behind in productivity from where they could have been.

They tried to take on too much and got burnt. Deletis states that they laid out 38 redesign objectives all at once instead of implementing them one at a time. Sandhu claims, Customers were complaining more than ever, after the redesign, everyone was excited about making the changes that we had to make (Garner, 1997). Thomas Brooks the companies IS Director agrees, When we did not have those 38 objectives prioritized, peoples expectations were all over the map (Garner, 1997). He states that when everything did not happen at once, people started to refine the objectives just to get them out of the way. When others saw this happening, they felt that the redesign was being stopped.

The staff of National Semiconductor had a hard time coping with all of the changes facing them all at once. The people had trouble digesting all of the changes all at once. Deletis feels that they exceeded their ability to cope. Another problem that they faced was not truly embracing the team concept. Managers would still hold closed door meetings where major decisions were made. Brooks feels that the loyalty to the team broke down as a result of this and, it gave managers an out (Garner, 1997). Deletis states that if they were to do it all over again, they would spend much more time on team effectiveness and training.

The main morale to this story is to think small when embarking on such a large project. Take the time to get it done right the first time. Do not panic when things start to not go according to plan. And, lastly, prioritize. It further explains that much of the failures are on the planning and implementation, and not the concept.

There are other examples of some failures that are largely due to the ineffective methods of achieving self-directed work teams. Back in the 1980s, when team building within organizations started to make some noise in the workplace, John Clifford started General Systems Consulting Group in New Jersey (Curtis, 1997). In the beginning, he would consult with companies that wanted to give this new concept a try. Now, he says, he is doing mostly clean-up, and doing one-on-one counseling with people who just cannot seem to work in teams. He states that the track record of the 66% of all businesses that have employed some type of teamwork has been spotty at best.

He said that the results are generally positive, but not overly dramatic. He points to the fact that it is a fad and that is why most of the people are converting to it. Clifford says that, we are not a nation that has ever awarded collectivism; we dont know how (Curtis, 1997). Clifford does however; state that the reason for the failures is lack of true management commitment and not fully understanding what the concept is before employing it. He explains that these things do require some considerable care and feeding and that companies have to invest time and money in order for success to become a reality. Again, the problem is within the implementation, not the concept.

So, this presents a challenge to the Human Resource manager as well as other managers in the organization. As stated earlier, there are nine basic steps in establishing self-directed work teams. There are also many other recommendations on how to do it right and avoid many of the errors that others have faced. There are some models of how to better build a successful Self-Directed Work Team structures within the company that is worth examining. The first model is the shared-leadership model.

This tackles the all-important factor of leadership within the team. In this model, members take on a leadership role for a different aspect of the work that needs to be done and is responsible for being the authority in that area. For example, one member can be in charge of keeping an eye on the competitions products, one can be in charge of helping create new ideas, and another can research possible vendors to keep costs down and quality up. This way, all members have equal influence and authority in the group. It also eliminates the need to keep information from others to obtain power within the group.

This was a problem observed by many early studies done early on in the Self-Directed Work Team phenomenon. In the Shared Leadership Model, the members have to address key issuer early on. Four major issues that must be determined early on are: 1. Who leads when, and who follows when? 2. What will the team accomplish? 3.

How will the work be carried out? 4. How and when will the team know the project is a success? (Arnold, 1996) After the members decide on many of the workings of the group, managers can assist them in addressing any issues of authority and help them shift the assignments for authority as necessary. This does not completely eliminate the need for a manager either. The support of the manager is vital to the teams success in the shared-leadership model. Human Resource managers can be very effective in guiding the Self-Directed Work Team in the shared-leadership model.

They must use simulations and tests in interviews to help them select people who are better cut out for teamwork. They must also keep a few points in mind. One of the issues that a Human Resource Manager must keep in mind is that, employees will feel vulnerable in a self-directed work team because it lacks the familiar clarity of a hierarchical structure (Arnold, 1996). This can increase the sensitivity of authority issues. Also, should competition help the team by pushing each member a bit harder, or is it a hindrance that erodes the solidarity and friendship (Neuborne, 1997). Education of the shared leadership model is crucial to reduce this heightened sensitivity.

The team experience must be fulfilling, and that can be achieved by assuring the employees that others will acknowledge their roles as a follower and a leader. Another key issue is that the members of the team be open to the team concept. As discussed earlier, some people are just not cut out for this and have only negative opinions of it. Employees who want to be a part of a team contribute the most to that teams success. And teams that are comprised of people, who embrace the team concept, are the most successful teams.

Interdependence is also a key attribute to effective team members. They can work interdependently, as well as rely on others when necessary. The ability to shift back and fourth between the roles is essential to the shares-leadership approach. Yet another issue is the need for self esteem among the members. They have to feel that sense of purpose in the team. They also must feel that they are part of something important. Many unsuccessful teams overlook this basic human need.

The more that most team members feel that sense of ownership toward that common goal, the better the overall environment will be and the easier the obstacles will become. Everyone understanding the mission of the team expands their limits and makes it much easier to contribute. Lastly, the Human Resource manager must ensure that everyone has clearly defined roles. Ambiguity can really stop motivation dead in its tracks. The team members know exactly who to go to with any issues and concerns when the roles are clearly defined.

So, the Human Resource manager and other managers have an important role in the shared-leadership model. Recognizing certain warning signs of trouble are also important for the HR manager to see early before they mushroom into bigger problems. Overlapping responsibilities, missed deadlines, and increased friction are just some of the signs a HR manager should look for. It is also important for the HR manager to educate the employees on identifying the key stakeholders and work with them. These stakeholders are the ones who give expertise and information, as well as provide resources (Arnold, 1996). Pride can easily flourish in the shared-leadership model. The next model worth taking a look at is the Dutch model adopted by many Dutch companies.

While many feel that the Japanese put the team concept on the map, it was actually the European companies that have been practicing it for the last 35 years. The Dutch model follows 4 basic phases and three basic principles. The first of the 4 basic phases is Phase 1: The bundling of individuals is where the teams are formed after the technical conditions of implementing the teamwork have been set. Members of the team are cross-trained and become multi-skilled workers in this phase. This concept is seen in most models of teamwork and ensures that members can assist each other in case of absenteeism (Van Amelsvoort & Benders, 1996).

For any undertaking to be assigned to a team, the team must have at least two members who can accomplish that task. It also helps employee morale to see that a company is investing time and money to cross-train them. There is also training to answer any questions that the employees might have about Self Directed Work Teams and explain to them why the company is going in that direction. The team is then given its objectives for the next six months and holds regular team meetings to discuss issues and build their team communication skills. The next phase of the Dutch model is Phase 2: Group. In this phase, members of the team get gradual doses of empowerment.

They become involved in more aspects of the overall success of the team such as quality control and dealing with absenteeism. This phase is a difficult one for most former managers and foreman, because they are reluctant to give up the power that they once enjoyed. Meetings are still held and performance remains a major theme in those meetings. The next phase is Phase 3: Team. In this level, management becomes even less involved in the team.

Conflict resolution and decision-making become the responsibility of the team. This is the phase where the team building is the biggest theme of the team. The team begins to set its own goals and interact with management on how they plan to accomplish those goals. The team does team appraisal itself. The team is given a budget at this phase and wages are adjusted to reflect the performance of the team and the attaining of its goals.

Although this wage modification is no larger than 5% Otherwise, the peer pressure would exceed a comfortable level to earn that bonus. The team in a 360-degree review conducts individual reviews. This phase is the most psychological of the three phases and the toughest one to make the transition into. As can be concluded, this is also the one that takes the longest to achieve. The last phase is Phase 4: Open team.

In this phase, the team acts as a separate company within the organization. They begin to negotiate contracts with internal then external customers. They review the contracts themselves two or three times per year. They are also invited to attend major company meetings to discuss issues. Another challenge for Human Resource managers when implementing self directed work teams is the challenge of keeping the work place diverse during the transition.

This can be done through combining diversity training in the team building training programs. Integrating articles of diversity and articles written by people with diversity backgrounds can be presented at these meetings. Films relating to diversity as it relates to various aspects of leadership can also be viewed in these sessions. This combination of diversity and team training needs to be identified as strategic factors for the organizations future (Hickman & Creighton-Zollar). Upper management should demonstrate and affirm their support of such programs on a continuing basis. Glenn Parker defined 6 factors that management must be responsible for to make employees aware of their commitment to the curriculum in his Cross-functional Collaboration article in 1994. There are as follows: 1.

Provide resources such as time, training, funds, people, and equipment. 2. Talking and walking teamwork, through verbal and visual actions. 3. Recognizing and rewarding teams and team players. 4.

Communicating a vision, charter or broad goals. 5. Breaking down old paradigm and procedural barriers 6. Modeling teamwork so that management works as a team. In conclusion, it is easily said that Self-Directed Work Teams are a great option for most companies today.

That does not mean that it is an ideal concept for all companies. One thing is clear, however; the concept is one that will increase productivity, morale, and quality for organizations that implement it the proper way. If not implemented with much care and caution, it can prove to be an expensive learning experience. All things considered, it is a noble concept that is becoming widely adopted, and will lead many establishments into the next millennium. Bibliography Works Cited 1. Katzenbach, JR Smith DK.

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Sage Publications Inc, Newbury Park, California, 91320. 4. Bodwell, Donald J. (1999). Self Directed Work Teams. high performance team web page.

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Arnold, Val, (1996).Organizional Development: Making Teams Work. HR Focus, v73 n2 p12(2). 10. Neuborne, Ellen, (February 25,1997). Companies Save, But Workers Pay. USA Today, Section B pp 1-4.

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Los Angeles Times, s5 p1. 12. Aeppel, Timothy, (Sept. 8, 1997). Missing the Boss: Not All Workers Find Idea of Empowerment As Neat As It SoundsSome Hate Fixing Machines, Apologizing for Errors, Disciplining TeammatesRah-Rah Types Do the Best. Wall Street Journal; New York; sA p1.

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Hickman, Gill Robinson & Creighton-Zollar, Ann, (1998). Diverse Self-Directed Work Teams: Developing Strategic Initiatives for 21st Century Organizations. Public Personnel Management, v27 n2 p187(14). Business.

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