by Peter Block
Have You Hugged Your Goalie
Business News Briefs
As executives, consultants and academicians toured plants in Japan, one apparent difference was the Japanese quality circle movement. These "tourists” were quick to relate quality circles to building commitment to the organization and solving problems. They heard people like Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa tell them that the purpose of quality circles was to train employees, not to solve problems, but they didn't listen.
Slaying Dragons in the
By the early 1990s management began to believe that a team of two develops an answer that is more than twice as good as one person would generate, that with a team of two, 1+1 = 3 instead of 2. The real truth of the matter is that usually with a team of two 1+1=1.2, not 2 or 3. A team of seven employees does not give you an answer that is seven times better than one person would generate but only 1.5 times better plus or minus 1.
By the mid 1990s management realized that the best-value solution was not always provided by teams. As a result, they switched their thinking around to use teams when a 10-50 percent better solution was required and justified a 700 percent increased investment in defining the corrective action. As a result,the training focus had moved from teams to individual creativity and empowerment as management began to rely more on the suggestion programs than the natural team approach to problem solving. This fell in line with the Japanese 1970s and 1980s results that indicated that 50 times more problems were solved using the Japanese suggestion program than quality circles.
Team-oriented vs. Teamwork-oriented
Let's assume you're walking down an
aisle and see a skid laying in the middle of the aisle.
Of course, this is a potential safety situation that
should be corrected. Now with the team-oriented
organization the person that detects the problem would
call a team meeting with representatives from trucking,
industrial engineering, the nearest departmental manager,
quality control and production control. Due to their busy
schedule the first time they can get together is next
Thursday at 3:00 p.m. At this meeting the problem is
defined, a fishbone diagram is prepared and another
meeting is scheduled for the following Tuesday to solve
the problem. At the next meeting the group brainstorms
ideas on how to get the skid removed from the aisle.
After considerable discussion, it is the consensus of the
team that trucking should send someone over to pick up
the skid and store it in the warehouse. Now with a
teamwork-oriented organization, when an individual
recognizes the problem, he or she would ask a nearby
employee to help them pick up the skid and move it out of
Low-performing organizations that have a low level of trust in the management team need to use employee teams to help build a feeling of trust and belonging.
Organizations that have a scarcity of creative employees need to have teams to come up with answers that are equal to the answers developed by a single creative individual. Teams are also effective when a small-percentage better solution provides a significant competitive advantage or when an extremely complex problem requires input from a number of viewpoints. In many cases teams have evolved away from problem-solving teams to communication teams which is an effective way to get involvement and expedite the many change processes that are going on within the organization.
Creativity and Empowerment: The
Theme of Tomorrow