The traditional management style of the early 1900s is only
producing results in a handful of organizations today. It is
being replaced by a contemporary management style that
increases employee contributions in remarkable ways. The
contemporary management techniques were developed by
professors at the
University of Michigan then perfected
overseas by companies such as
Toyota and Sony.

It was not until the late 1990s that companies such as
Amazon.com, Google, Southwest Airlines and others took
the concept seriously. These American companies proved
the style adaptable to American workers as an alternative to
the worn-out traditional practices.

The Symptoms
An automobile assembly plant was struggling to meet the
productivity and profit requirements of the 21st century.
Despite dabbling in contemporary management nothing in
proven to be successful. Employees initially thought that
empowerment and
teamwork would improve results that
optimism had long faded due to several failed attempts at
transforming the workplace.

Both union and management believe strongly that change
was needed and that the global management model used
by Toyota and others would provide for advantageous
results at their facility. The question would be how to roll out
a program that will get broad support even after the prior
failed attempts.

The Diagnosis
Through a combined effort it was determined that both white
and blue collar workers would attend mandatory training
sessions. It was believed that by having staff from multiple
departments and all levels of employment from new hire to
plant manager attend sessions together it would be seen as
a global effort.

With union and management officials agreeing to take part
in introductory workshops alongside rank and file it would be
clear that this would not be another failed start at reinventing
the way this plant did business. Anything short of full
participation would send a clear message that this program
was nothing better than prior attempts.

The Prescription
All employees were scheduled in groups of 15 to 30
participants in week long classes covering change,
teamwork, communication, conflict resolution, and quality
controls. At the same time plant signage supported the
program by providing new communication vehicles to report
inefficiencies, impediments and other areas of lost
opportunity.

The schedule was developed to promote as much cross
pollination as possible so that plan employees with fully
understand the diversity of positions in the importance each
played. It was quickly learned that participants needed to be
completely relieved of their regular responsibilities during
their week of training as early participants would sometimes
attempt to get out of classes by creating a need on the shop
floor.

The curriculum was further enhanced by showing the value
of certain elements, such as interpersonal relationships,
beyond just the workplace.

Future Prognosis
Corporate executives had made it clear that this plant would
not be receiving additional work unless it successfully
adopted contemporary management as would be
evidenced by the plant’s output. The same executives were
pleased with the initial results and stated they would not
make a determination until completion of the program plus
an appropriate period for the program to take effect.

The clock ran out six months after the program was
completed. The turmoil the automotive industry in early 2009
forced management make a decision on the future the plant.
Taking a hard look at the results from the program it was
determined the plan had become so competitive that it was
taken from a one shift operation to a full three-shift operation.

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©2016 Max Impact, Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA
Changing culture
Going from traditional to contemporary management