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 A Production Team Skills Article

Part 1 of 4


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Introducing Back-to-Basics Manufacturing 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 place.

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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