The main problem at Plant Y seems to be a lack of immediate contact with a supervisory element—not just between the body of workers but also between the foreman and his superior. The emphasis here should be placed on leadership. Contact between the foreman and his manager would facilitate much needed lessons in managing subordinates. You have to realize that the foreman himself is a mini-manager, and according to Fayol’s theory, esprit de corps (or harmony among workers) ought to be encouraged. This has not been happening in the Fabrication division. Rather, all the eight workers are united against the foreman in what might be considered a mutinous coalition. The fact that they want to replace him with a weak and unkempt worker implies that the foreman has been hard-handed. Therefore, perhaps it is not the element of discipline that is lacking. It might be another major component of a harmonious and productive workplace: communication.
This idea is reinforced by the fact that the workers feel cut off from and unrecognized by the higher levels of authority. The foreman identifies the sole problem as the lack of enough workers—but this clearly cannot be the only problem as the workers you do have are not performing anywhere close to their optimal level. Morale is low, and research by Gallup indicates that this might best be lifted by offering something other than financial gain: a way to voice their gripes and opinions and to feel their connection and value to the company as a whole (Robbins & Coulter, 2006; Research Development, 2004).
One of the most important things to consider in this situation is the lack of communication that has evidently been a part of this division of the organization. Although the employees have been able to communicate among themselves, they have benefited from very little communication with the upper tiers of the organization. Principally, they feel themselves cut off from the rest of the company, and their work has not been seen or rewarded by management. This feeling would appear to be justified, as they have evidently been engaging in extended leave-taking, which should long ago have caught the attention of management.
The situation involves a divide between the current state of affairs (disunity and non-productivity) and the desired state of affairs, which includes harmonious relationships that facilitate and reward optimal productivity. You might find that the decision proposed in response to the problem (motivating and rebuilding the morale of the staff by highlighting their irreplaceable position in the company and improving the reward system) might meet with opposition, since it does not involve the replacement of the current foreman as has been requested. What it does involve is increased contact between me (the manager) and the members of the production department. It will also involve reward systems, such as employee-of-the-month programs. Finally, measures will be taken to reduce the number of breaks allowed and to scrutinize the allocation of vacation time. The alternative to this is to increase punishments (negative rewards) for low production. However, this seems less likely to improve employee morale and to foster good relationships between different levels of staff.
Human resource concerns lie within the treatment of these employees. The foreman has been cut off from other managers and obviously lacks interpersonal and managerial skills. The other employees have themselves been neglected and they do not feel their worth to the company. This feeling is only reinforced when they take extended leaves of absence that go unnoticed and unchecked.
Legal and ethical concerns have also to be taken into consideration. Legally, as the employees have tenure, their jobs cannot easily be placed on the line. Ethically, the company needs to demonstrate its reluctance to encroach upon the promises granted by their tenure status. Therefore, no mention will initially be made of taking legal action to remove anyone from their positions. The employees will be made aware that this courtesy will also be extended to the foreman, whom they have expressed a desire to see replaced. However, the employees have also to be reminded that they too have an ethical responsibility to provide the services for which the company pays them. My presence as manager on the site will be the first indication of the company’s commitment to these measures. It will also fulfill our social responsibility to the employees, and the investment that will be made in them (through seminars reiterating the company’s history, vision, mission, as well as their own part in seeing the mission accomplished)
Plans must be put into place to return the Fabrication division to its optimal state of existence. The principal objective is to increase output by the department, and the management plan would be directed by this. This single-use, operational plan hinges upon deadlines set not just by superiors but by the Corporate Headquarters. (Though single-use, the plan is based upon concepts that will need to remain an integral part of the Fabrication division.) Production must be improved as it is drastically lagging—by 70 days. In order to maintain any level of competitive advantage, production has to exist at its optimal level (Monga, 2000; Robbins & Coulter, 2006). The employees will therefore be:
- Formally informed of current lag in production
- Called upon to offer suggestions as to how to improve production
- Encouraged to identify their own strengths and
- Allowed to participate in production in the ways to which they are best suited
- Given realistic goals that would result in:
- gradual 30%-50% increase in production
- over a two-month period
- noticeable increases within a few weeks.
- Made aware that their vacation and breaks will now be monitored closely to discourage coinciding vacations by more than one member.
The urgent nature of the situation dictates that the plan must be short-term and specific. It will therefore also involve:
- Quantified weekly production goals for each member of the Fabrication division
- Output calculated from a base production value (BPV). (The BPV would reflect the output of each employee for the past week.)
- The foreman’s being in charge of weekly tallying of each worker’s output
- The weekly announcement of the most efficient worker.
- The use of production numbers to identify the employee of the month.
- Discussion of the outcomes of the plan in bi-weekly meetings
- Assessment of how effective the employee and manager think the strategy has been
- Adjustment of the plan based on assessment
The effectiveness of the strategy should become noticeable not just at Plant Y but by Headquarters, and this will most likely stave off their plans to send in a Special Action Team.
At the outset, no personnel changes will be made, as the current foreman seems to be the most qualified of the set for his position. It seems that an improvement in the communication and reward system might be the best strategy to consider first. This would involve a re-establishment of the chain of command. It would also involve scheduled monthly visits or newsletters to the Fabrication staff from the higher level managers, in order to integrate the employees into the company’s culture (David, 2005; Robbins & Coulter, 2006). This would create the feeling that the higher members of the team have an interest in this particular division.
Weber’s impersonal leadership theory would have no place here. The employees have already experienced enough impersonality and distance from the managerial staff. Leadership would instead involve the uniting of several of Mintzberg’s managerial roles: The interpersonal role of being a liaison manager will connect the workers with the top managerial positions so they feel an integral part of the company’s network. It would also involve the manager as a nerve center and a spokesperson, who would take pains to hear their concerns and suggestions and to disseminate them to the appropriate departments. Finally, my managerial role would also involve disturbance handling and negotiation, as I will attempt to work out with the employees precisely how their productivity can increase and the rewards they might expect when this is effectively completed (Robbins & Coulter, 2006).
Several tools will be involved in the process. Quantitative forecasting would form an integral part of the planning strategy outlined above. It will be necessary in calculating how the theoretical increases in production will improve the overall production of the Fabrication division over the stated period of time. Because forecasts are prone to being very volatile, the plans have been scheduled to be in place for only two months at a time, after which re-evaluation of the strategy will take place as a measure of organizational performance (David, 2005). If necessary, changes will be made to it.
The initial discussion with the staff of the Fabrication division in which they offer possible solutions to the problem will involve the identification of a benchmarking scenario or situation in a real-life firm. This scenario or firm will offer a model of best practices from which this team will attempt to copy strategies that have made the benchmarking team enviable (“Implementing high performance,” 2002). Human and structural/cultural resources will be the principal resource types allocated and restructured, as scarcity of other resources exists within the company. Employees will be reminded through seminars of the culture and vision of the company, and attempts will be made to boost their morale through implementing a system of rewards.
The restructure of the area would, initially, be very minimal. The foremost aspect would be through an increased (but not overwhelming) managerial presence in the office. This increased presence could be seen not as a punishment for mal-production but as a routine part of orientation as a new manager. However, restructuring of the division would also involve intense meetings with the foreman in the first week for some one-on-one managerial training.
Organizational citizenship behavior must be improved, as the bad feelings between the workers and the foreman merely promote disunity among the Fabrication division and is a direct cause of much of the low production and absenteeism problems. These last two problems are, however, also a part of organizational citizenship behavior. It is the mark of a good citizen to do that which is expected of him or her, and at work industry and punctuality are and should be expected (Robbins & Coulter, 2006).
Certain high performance working practices will be implemented as they have been shown to improve employee job satisfaction (“Growing importance,” 2002)Efforts at improving employee morale (by offering rewards, etc.) are aimed at improving job satisfaction, which is a behavior that is defined by these employees’ overall attitude toward their job. Promoting harmony and solidarity to improve work climate is also expected to improve job satisfaction. Job satisfaction should also be increased by promoting job involvement; that is, through allowing the employees a bit of freedom to be self-assigned to the tasks that better suit them. Previously mentioned plans to more tightly integrate them into the organization’s culture should improve their perception that the company supports them and increase their level of commitment to the organization (David, 2005; Robbins & Coulter, 2006). These changes should take about two or three weeks to become fully implemented. Once begun, they would continue indefinitely.
David, F. (2005). Strategic management: concepts and cases. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education.
“Growing importance of workplace learning, The” (2002). Supporting workplace learning for high performance working. International Labour Office.: United Nations. Retrieved September 18, 2006 from http://ilo.law.cornell.edu/public/english/employment/skills/workplace/contents/ch_1.htm
“Implementing high performance working practices.” (2002). Supporting workplace learning for high performance working. International Labour Office.: United Nations. Retrieved September 18, 2006 from http://ilo.law.cornell.edu/public/english/employment/skills/workplace/contents/ch_3.htm
Monga, R.C. “Managing enterprise productivity and competitiveness.” International Labour Organization. ILO: United Nations. Retrieved September 18, 2006 from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/employment/ent/papers/pmd-3.htm
Research Development Systems. (2004). “Who’s working in your organization?” RDS, LLC. Retrieved September 18, 2006 from http://www.rds- net.com/Handouts/Whos%20Working%20in%20Your%20Organization%20Handout.pdf
Robbins, S. P & M. Coulter. (2006). Management. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education.