Upon reviewing the implementation of Self-Directed Teams (SDT) at the newly acquired plant in Corpus Christi, Texas I have come to a conclusion that we need to redefine each team and revamp the roles and responsibilities of the team members that comprise each team. Facts that contributed to the lack of cohesiveness amongst the teams are as follows; 1) Is the size of the team too large? Should it be broken down into smaller teams? 2) Should teams rotate through all jobs in order have a better understanding of the entire production process? ) What are the boundaries for each team? What were they expected to do and accomplish in this new format? 4) Some employees think that they aren’t being paid to think and make decisions. There is no pay increase to be a part of the decision making process. What can be done to improve morale? 5) Can this be implemented at the 2 unionized plants where productivity is lower and turnover is higher? The above facts are a part of the problems that is inhibiting the Corpus Christi plant from meeting the 95% of capacity. First, we will look at the size of the teams.
In the past, I found that working in smaller teams is more beneficial and could make for a stronger bond amongst the workers. Right now, there are 2 teams during each eight hour shift. We will change that into 4 teams. There will be 2 Extrusion line operator teams consisting of 7 employees and 2 Material handler teams per shift. This team will consist of 6 and 7 employees per team. Each team will have at least 2 or 3 team members crossed trained so they can fill in when one of the team members is absent from work. Each team will have a “Go to Rep” the will bring new ideas, requests for time off, disciplinary action, etc. o the Coordinator. Initially, this could be on a weekly or bi-weekly rotating shift. If one or more of the team members does not feel comfortable with that role then it can be handled by fewer, but still on a rotating basis. They will not be looked down upon since some workers are not leaders, but do contribute to the final outcome. Each team and team member will work in every area of the production process so they will have a better understanding on what it takes to manufacture the pipes. They will not need to be experts, rather have the knowledge and know how.
And, they will appreciate the other roles and positions. This will coincide with the 36 week rotation that was already implemented. I will use myself as an example for this concept. As I look back at managing in the restaurant industry and on a helpdesk I had to know how to do everyone’s job. I didn’t need to become an expert. One might question my thought since I was a manager. Well, consider that each employee is a part of a SDT, aren’t they all managers in one form or another? There needs to be a set of boundaries for each one of these teams.
Even though they are SDT they still need boundaries, goals and targets that they need to meet. The team will not take this as “Freedom” to do what they want, when they want and how they want. They will still be held accountable for reaching targets even when one or more team members are absent. These smaller teams will need to understand that this is a team and when one piece is missing the others will need to pick-up and move on. A good example of this is in Boy Scouts where SDT was widely used. It wasn’t defined as that, but, nonetheless it was similar. The troop consisted of 4 or 5 patrols.
Each patrol had a leader and 6 to 8 members. Even though there was a Patrol leader, each patrol worked as one cohesive team and all members were empowered to make decisions and bring in new ideas. If young men aged 11 to 18 can do it, why can’t grown men and women do it as well? The biggest area that needs to be addressed is the morale of the team members. The teams want to be able to make decisions when it comes to overtime, vacation, etc. but what are the consequences if they abuse it? Production can be impacted. First of all, is overtime necessary when there are 3 shifts consisting of 4 teams?
Maybe it is warranted if the incoming shift is short staffed. Secondly, the coordinator needs to be more involved with the teams. They will need to increase their presence on the manufacturing floor and get to know their team members. They will need to stop thinking and acting like managers and go back to the way that a coordinator should think and work. They will need to improve the working relationship with the teams and continually seek out new ideas and encourage thinking outside of the box. Compensation is always a big player when it comes to the employee’s happiness and wellbeing.
They can be compensated on an individual, team and plant based on decisions and outcomes that they recommended and successfully implemented. They will need buy into the SDT and give 100% if not more into this, than the productivity can increase to the goal of 95%. It can all start with the hiring of new employees. They will know the work structure prior to starting the job. The plant is already very successful and is outperforming the other 2 unionized plants. So, why does there need to be any changes? Will management never be happy with the productivity?
What happens when the plant hits 95% of design capacity? Next will be 96% or 97%, etc. Will the employees receive any incentive or bonus for hitting the targeted number? These are all questions that we need to address. An incentive plan will need to be implemented for every week and month that the plant exceeds 90% of design capacity and an extra incentive whenever they exceed 95%. Another negative consequence that could come out of this is trying to implement this at the unionized plants. Management would have to restructure everything that is in their contracts.
The employees would be help more responsible if not hitting their targets. High turnover is foreseeable especially when trying to implement in a unionized shop. The solutions for improving the productivity at the plant are not far stretched. A few minor changes could help the plant get to where they need to be. The biggest change would be team sizes. I feel that, with smaller teams, they will bond faster and be more of a cohesive team. But with the small team, when someone quits, the rest of that small team is severely impacted. That can be remedied by having the teams learning to work while one man down.