Three in the Middle: the Experience of Making Change at Micro Switch

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Micro Switch Case Study|
Three in the Middle|
The Experience of Making Change at Micro Switch|
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Three in the Middle: The Experience of Making Change at Micro Switch

Introduction
Micro Switch, founded in 1937 and acquired by Honeywell Inc. in 1950, is a division that has long been known as an innovative industry leader in switches, sensors and manual controls. During the transition from electro-mechanical to electronic and solid state, Micro Switch enlisted the assistance of 49 year Honeywell employee to maintain their competitive edge within an ever changing market. With an internal shake up intended to preserve the organization’s reputation, as well as improve their downward decline, middle managers are left to ponder if “something had gone wrong, or as this the way a successful change was supposed to feel” (Lenan, Stone, 2008, pg.194, para. 1). Case Summary and Problem Definition

Economic issues began arising during the switch from electro-mechanical to electronic and solid state during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The apparent regression was in full force by 1985 and it took two years of plummeting for Micro Switch to enlist the help of Ramon “Ray” Alvarez in 1897. Alvarez had created a significant track record for himself and thus reinforced this decision. He had not only been a Honeywell employee for 49 years, but also a history of turning around two other Honeywell divisions. Alvarez developed a three year plan to not only reignite Micro Switch’s competitive edge, but to also facilitate performance excellence. Despite his reputation for being psychologically intimidating, Alvarez was able to move cautiously enough in the beginning to gain support from senior managers, but did not necessarily set the tone for factory workers and lower level employees. In this three year plan, Alvarez devised three different strategies to go about achieving this mission. First was to create a mission statement as well as a new vision: “growth through quality solutions to customer needs” (Lenan, Stone, 2008, pg.194, para 3). Second, was to establish a scrupulous annual strategic planning process that allowed Micro Switch to become more competitive, quicker to respond, and monetarily savvy. Third was the development of APEX, Achieve Performance Excellence, a model that would not only act as the focal point of this change, but would allow Alvarez to continue to fine tune Micro Switch’s strategies during later years. In its first year APEX was intended to encourage nearly 4,000 employees that the change was an urgent matter, and increasingly more necessary than ever before. APEX focused on giving employees specific ways to strive for quality and distinction by creating an employee suggestion system, as well as awards for employees that met performance objectives. Quality and performance was the heart of this transition and by 1990, APEX became much more sophisticated. The Building Block Councils was developed during this time and was comprised of an arrangement of committees and councils. Their primary objective was to encourage division wide involvement in a variety of strategic areas by creating six councils that implemented new standards to their designated area. These areas were the customer satisfaction council, quality council, goals council, awareness council, training council, and recognition council. Upon reading the observations of three high level managers who also served as chairs on many of the new councils, it becomes evident that the plan brought forth by Ray Alvarez in fact had many short comings. The first three year plan focused on symptoms not actual problem and according to Rick Rowe, another Micro Switch director, “the easy changes had already been made. Now the company had to tackle deeply ingrained behaviors and processes which were holding the division back from reaching its goals” (Lenan, Stone, 2008, pg. 200). Alvarez in many ways, did not focus on separating immediate symptoms from the...
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