ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

April 1998


Forging New Ways To Work

Celebrating Success

JCPenney Spells Out A METHOD For Success

Roberts Express Delivers CATs

Stories Of The Future

Taxes, Oscars And Performance Appraisals


Quality, Wherefore Art Thou?
by Peter Block

The Bottom Line Benefits Of Participation
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review

Views For A Change

H. James Harrington Responds

The keys to cooperation and involvement are information and knowledge. As organized labor gains a better understanding of the organization's operations, resources and challenges, the higher the probability that management will gain their support and cooperation. Basically, management's role is very simple:

o For government, it is decreasing the percentage of the gross national product that is consumed each year (we would suggest five to seven percent) and/or decreasing the per-unit cost by five to seven percent a year for commercial endeavors
o Increasing customer satisfaction with the organization's output
o Getting sufficient return on assets so that the investors will not liquidate the business.

Management really doesn't care how their money is budgeted as long as it has the maximum impact upon these three factors. As a result, management should be very open to organized labor's ideas that will have a positive impact upon these objectives.

Most managers are reluctant to be totally open and honest with their employees and organized labor. Management rationalizes that employees would not want to, or are not capable of, understanding much of the data that would be available to them. However, this is not the real reason management does not want to share this information. The true reason is that knowledge is power and most managers resist giving up their power.

Organized labor's hostility towards management is usually based on a lack of trust in management. Rule #1: To break down organized labor's resistance to becoming involved, management should develop an open, trusting environment. This often is much easier to say than to do, particularly when there has been a history of friction between labor and management.

There are two very strong, common interests between organized labor and management:

1. The employee. Management realizes that the employees are their most valuable assets and organized labor's primary concern is with the welfare of the employees.
2. The organization. They both realize they cannot survive unless the organization is successful.

These two interdependencies are very important in developing a cooperative relationship between organized labor and management.
The way to get the participative process started is to invite organized labor to become a member of the executive committee and to sit in on their meetings.

If this approach is turned down, management should consider conducting an employee opinion survey with part of it designed to identify nonunion contract issues that the employees would like to see improved. Inviting organized labor leaders to take part in preparing the questionnaire, conducting the survey, and analyzing the results will help involve them in future improvement projects. To identify improvement opportunities, organized labor and management should analyze the survey results from the total organization's standpoint. These improvement opportunities should be prioritized based on their impact on the organization's performance. Typically this leads to a list of noncontract improvement opportunities that management and organized labor can work on to improve employees' work life environment and the organization's performance.

If you are unable to get organized labor involved in conducting the opinion survey, management should make a list of things that they want to accomplish or improve. For example:
o Reduce costs
o Increase productivity
o Shut down two locations

Next they need to review this list and classify each item as having a negative or positive impact as viewed by the employee. Then they need to repeat the process, classifying each item to determine if it is or is not part of the labor contract.

The items that have a positive impact as viewed by the employees and are not part of the union contract negotiations are excellent items to present to organized labor leaders, requesting their assistance in developing the strategy and implementation plan. Typical items that can build cooperation are:

o Employee training
o Job rotation
o Environmental improvement
o Safety improvement
o Preventive maintenance

Building trust in labor may take years. In some organizations, it has taken decades to develop the adversarial relationship that exists today and it cannot be changed overnight.

It is very important that management allow organized labor leaders to maintain two faces: a hard, unyielding face when they are representing the union members in negotiating the contract or presenting a grievance; and a softer, more cooperative face when they are working with management on items of common interests.

Some have described an adversarial relationship between management and unions as a zero-sum game. The assumption being that there is a discrete size of the pie, and the job of each is to get as much of the pie for themselves as they can. The alternative being suggested here is that it is NOT a zero-sum game, and that part of the relationship should be devoted to a mutual effort to bake a bigger pie!

The only reason you would want a participative system is to improve the organization's performance. As a government agency, this means that your value added per employee, cost per unit of output, percentage of gross national product consumed, and customer satisfaction level should be impacted positively by any program that is implemented. An impact analysis study will define how these key measurements will be impacted. If these key measurements are not significantly improved, allowing the organization to accomplish more with less, then there may be better ways to spend the taxpayers hard-earned money.

John Runyan Responds

April '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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