Introducing focused factories and self-directed work teams opens
great new opportunities to demonstrate our new, positive attitudes
towards each other. Success leads to better use of resources and a
more confident and productive employee population. Promises of
empowerment and new horizons for those willing to take
responsibility and accountability for the quantity and quality of
their output with little or no supervision imply the creation of an
environment for success. That environment includes a blend of the
abilities of the team members plus a match of their combined talents
against the complex of skills needed in the cross-functional work
Self-directed work teams develop a new breed of employee. Eager,
capable generalists believe the concepts of total quality and the
elimination of non-value-added expense. They embrace continuous
change as a way of life, earning stature as they go beyond the
routine to help the team meet objectives. Recording these
demonstrated capabilities and putting them into useful, immediately
available form enhance the team's ability to make smart staffing
assignments. Self-directed teams need a matrix of information
identifying what must be done to meet their objectives and those
with the skills needed to get the job done.
Walls are crumbling around traditional functional organizations
defined by their defense of "territory," misuse of resources, long
response times and resistance to change. When people are locked in
pigeon-hole jobs — materials specialists in one coop, engineers in
another and the factory with several of its own (lathes here, drills
there and assembly in the corner)—it's easy to forget they have
skills and abilities well beyond what managers ask of them.
Functional organization structures compensate for our inability to
master the process of identifying and using the firm's human
capability; they stifle initiative, enable our inefficiencies and
jeopardize our competitive superiority.
Single-dimension jobs allow very simple methods to identify
candidate skills—it's easy to recruit a records clerk. Experienced
recruiters know that resumes often withhold abilities or experience
un-related to the desired job to avoid "over qualified" tags.
However, during interviews, candidates regularly describe training,
experience, skills and personal attributes revealing substantially
more potential than "records clerk" requires.
The problem is, pre-employment data are usually incomplete, most
often not converted to useful information for decision makers trying
to find the right people for a team, or a task within the team.
Rarely do we keep sufficient information as employees learn new
tasks. Even records of training programs don't describe the learning
experience in terms relevant to the work place.
Without decision-assisting information people do not get
cross-trained in advance of the need; unprepared, they get confused
and disheartened with new tasks. Those who have useful past
experience and skills go unidentified while others are made
miserable with inappropriate assignments. In the worst cases
production schedules are missed, quality falls and team members
request transfers or quit.
Conclusion, avoid the problems by gaining control of essential
information. Identify the tasks to be performed, establish criteria
for success and how success is measured. Accept workers as the best
source of information about their own capability for the same
reasons we already accept the worker as the best source of
information about tasks to be performed.
To be Continued
For balance of this article, click on the below link:
Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 02
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