RL WOLFE: IMPLEMENTING SELF-DIRECTED TEAMS.
A CASE REVIEW
RL WOLFE: IMPLEMENTING SELF-DIRECTED TEAMS.
The self-directed work team is an autonomous work unit capable of self-management. Such team has little need for direct supervision from managers; rather, the manager’s role is to meet the need of the team through the provision of resources, training and encouragement (Douglas & Gardner, 2004). The team is typically comprised of 5 to 15 members who are responsible for performing and managing all or most aspect of a set of interdependent work tasks (Yeatts and Hyten, 1998). In order to overcome the competitive challenge for production efficiency and effectiveness, organizations have focused on removing hierarchical layers, increasing employees’ involvement, and pushing the decision process to a lower level within the organization. Self-directed work teams are among the most popular forms of organizational redesign in the US in recent times. Organizations with self-directed teams have reported significant improvement in productivity, work quality and returns on investment (Garvin, 1997). This may be explained by the observation that employees of self-managing group tend to define their work role as contributors to the groups primary task rather than in relation to one specific job. This paper is designed to analyze the implementation of a self-directed team model and discuss the impact of this approach on the productivity of RL Wolfe’s plastic pipe manufacturing plant in Corpus Christi, TX. It will also critically analyze the role of communication in implementing the self-directed team model and how management of the company dealt with the conflict situation inherent in the approach. BACKGROUND:
RJ Wolfe is a privately held plastic pipe manufacturing company with headquarters in Houston. In 2003, RJ Wolfe purchased Moon Plastics, a small customs plastic manufacturer in Corpus Christi, TX. This plant uses plastic extrusion to produce polyethylene pipes for the natural gas and oil industry. It was retooled in 2004 with a design capacity of 2,250 tons of high-density polyethylene pipes per year, runs four extrusion lines 24 hours a day over three shift, and presently operates at about 80% of design capacity, John Amasi is the director of production and engineering of the company. He has been interested in Self-Directed Team (SDT) model for several years, and felt there was an opportunity to implement the SDT model at the newly acquired and retooled plant in Corpus Christi. Amasi hope to boost workforce efficiency, and increase productivity to 95% of design capacity by creating semi-autonomous workforce teams to run the plant. Transitioning to a Self-Directed Work Force:
Establishing a self-directed work team in an organization requires a balancing act to accommodate the shift in power and responsibility occurring between managers and team members (Douglas & Gardner, 2004). The behavior of the leader will facilitate the development of high level of team empowerment which is vital to the transition from a traditional management model to a self-directed model (Kirkman and Rosen, 2000). The SDT implementation team comprising John Amasi, the managers of RL Wolfe’s Austin, TX, Columbus, OH and Corpus Christi, TX plants met to address the job definition, hiring, team setup and responsibilities and role of the coordinator. Job Definition: Two job levels were created for the workers on the factory floor. These are: 1. Line operators and materials handlers 2. Technicians: Assigned to handle technically demanding jobs. Hiring: SDT model require workers with the diverse skill sets, and ability to work on flexible job...
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