ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

February 1998


Business And Sports, One-On-One

Measurement On The High Seas

Scientists Develop Formula For Multinational Teamwork

Part-Time Statistics For Full-Time Results

Volunteers Wanted: Must Be Team Player, Success Minded


Chasing Good Examples
by Peter Block

Individual Change Key To Org. Change
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review


Volunteers Wanted: Must Be Team Player, Success-Minded

You're a quality engineer at a large manufacturing facility. You've just heard through the company grapevine that there's going to be more downsizing and rightsizing. Employee morale is already an issue at your plant. And yet, in your position, the company's senior management expects you to continue to foster quality improvement. What are your limited options?

Companies faced with these questions have a new answer. Wayne Tindle, principal engineer of total quality at Alcatel, started thinking 'out of the box' and came up with programs that draft volunteer facilitators and trainers from within a company.

The Raleigh, N.C., site of Alcatel Network Systems, a manufacturer of equipment used in central offices of telephone companies, has adopted a unique strategy for facilitation and training. Alcatel recruits existing employees to fill the roles of part-time facilitators and instructors that spend 10-15 percent of their time in these roles and the remainder in their regular jobs. Alcatel's strategy has produced benefits for individual employees and positive bottom-line improvements for the company.

In the Beginning...
In 1991 Alcatel only had eight quality improvement teams, one facilitator and one training instructor. Five years later there were over 70 teams, 33 part-time facilitators and 10 part-time instructors. The number of quality improvement teams could not have been expanded without the use of facilitators and trainers. By using part-time facilitators and instructors Alcatel filled these new positions with existing employees, not with new full-time employees or external consultants. Through the use of this volunteer support system, Tindle maintains, "the teams have been the foundation of Alcatel's continuous improvement program. They've helped the company win numerous quality awards."

The use of part-time facilitators and training instructors has resulted in many benefits, both for employees and the company. New benefits for employees include:
o Exposure to new skills through training and
new situations
o Improved opportunities/responsibilities
o Increased visibility to a broader segment of the
company - more opportunities within the company

Benefits for the entire company also resulted from the new program. These included:
o Better understanding of the company culture
o Increased employee morale
o Reduced overall cost by utilizing existing staff for new positions

Alcatel's Framework for Facilitation
The structure at Alcatel focuses on Continuous Improvement Teams (CIT) which are composed of 6-9 employees within one department, one functional area, or they can be cross-functional. Alcatel CIT's:
o Incorporate employee leadership and a facilitator for permanent teams.
o Set goals linked to company objectives.
o Are empowered to implement improvements -
the teams are self-directed.

In a traditional environment, facilitators would be brought in to guide these CIT's. But Alcatel took the idea of Continuous Improvement Teams one step further with the introduction of Continuous Improvement Facilitator Teams (CIFT). This team is the pool from which part-time volunteer facilitators are selected to guide teams. The purpose of the facilitation team is to provide facilitation, consulting and implementation assistance for the CIT's. CIFT's are composed of volunteers, both hourly and salaried employees, who undergo screening for facilitation positions.

Members of the facilitator team go through extensive training including courses on: The Quality Advantage, Communication & Group Dynamics, Continuous Improvement Skills, Problem-Solving Process, Team Building and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Once a team member completes their training for the facilitation team, they are ready to begin spending 10-15 percent of their time guiding CIT's. Tindle recommends certain guidelines when assigning facilitators:
o A facilitator does not facilitate a team in his/her own area. This helps ensure objectivity and less involvement of the facilitator in the actual problem solving by the team.
o Assign a facilitator to teams that form a customer/supplier relationship; the facilitator then can be a common element between the teams, enhancing communication and cooperation.
o Consider the facilitator's background, skills, characteristics, etc. For example, support teams have more difficulty developing measures for improvement than manufacturing teams; therefore, a person with good analytical skills would be an asset to a support team.

What's Good for the Facilitator is Good for the Trainer
Along with its part-time facilitator program, Alcatel also uses a part-time instructor program. The driving forces and benefits for using part-time instructors are the same as those for using part-time facilitators; however, the scope of the program is much narrower and easier to coordinate and control. Like facilitators the instructors are volunteers and are supported by management to commit 10-15 percent of their time to conduct
training courses they choose to conduct. The ability to choose is key because to be an effective instructor, an individual has to buy into what they teach, demonstrate enthusiasm for the content and have the background to obtain credibility from the class. The evaluations of instructors since the beginning of the program support this company philosophy of choice.

What Makes It Tick
"The success of this part-time program depends upon the commitment of the facilitators and their management," insists Tindle. "Without this commitment, the volunteer approach wouldn't work." The time commitment is four hours per week (one hour meeting time and one hour outside the meeting for two teams) and volunteers are expected to commit for one year. Considering the amount of training invested in this new role, any smaller commitment would hurt the program and make it more expensive.

According to Tindle, "the advantages of this program far exceed the disadvantages. The growth and development of employees - and the opportunity to add variety to their jobs - increase their value to Alcatel and to themselves," he stressed. "For example, one hourly employee moved from a CIT member to team leader, to facilitator, to instructor, and is presently in a salaried position as a training coordinator."

Tindle offers the following advice: "If your company, like many in the '90's, is consumed with downsizing, rightsizing, displacements and layoffs, there's still hope for quality improvement! There were a lot of pitfalls and lessons learned at Alcatel. I think we're a better company today because of the approach we took. It was not easy."

February '98 News for a Change | Email Editor


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