Last spring, APA Industries of Melbourne, Australia was facing a crisis -- a pleasant one, granted, but a crisis all the same. Demand for its product unexpectedly jumped 33%, and the company had to figure out how to boostproduction over a six-week period.

The solution? A full company meeting, reports APA's Damian Cooke. Sales numbers went up on the bulletin board. Manufacturing teams calculated materials and labor requirements. The group focused on three options: two12-hour shifts, a seven-day week, or a temporary third shift. Teams got 24 hours to talk it over, then the decision was put to a vote.

The winner: a third shift. "It started the following Monday," says Cooke. "The teams organized their own staffing. Some chose to rotate the positions, while others moved people over to night shift for the full sixweeks. The targets were met each day -- in fact, it became a competition among the teams to reach the targets."

At the end of six weeks, production was up the required 33%, and the solution to the problem had been organized in just a few days. "This is a flexible organization," concludes Cooke.

Copyright 1998 Open-Book Management Inc.