An HR director explains some of the snags his company ran into after it established 15 teams.
Hyde Tools had overcome the initial barriers to teams, including employees who didn't want to be cross-trained and supervisors who felt their authority was being threatened. But for Hyde, a $50-million hand-tool company in Southbridge, Mass., some of the biggest problems came later -- when its 15 shop-floor teams were newly up and running. These second-stage snags continue to challenge the company:
Getting everyone on board. "Everyone in the plant went through training," says human-resources director Dick Ayers, "but the program wasn't office oriented, and that was one of our first mistakes." After the training was completed, productivity soared on the shop floor; products that once took 15 weeks to make were now completed in 3 to 4 weeks. But the purchasing and finance departments could not keep up.
"We got the product out the door before they could process the paperwork," says Ayers. The back office reorganized into teams 18 months later, but Ayers thinks that should have happened sooner and that management should have prepared purchasing and finance for the teams' impact on them.
Developing new measurements. As teams came up to speed director of manufacturing operations Ken Rizner was often barraged with frantic warnings from the finance department, such as "The shop's going to hell in a handbasket!" "We were doing one or two hours a week of classroom training, so right off the bat, our productivity was off," explains Rizner. "We expected that." But finance didn't. Even now, says Rizner, the company's methods of measuring productivity aren't in line with the new team structure. "Our cost people say if you have one person doing one job, you'll make more money than if you cross-train. But then you lose flexibility. You can't always get a black-and-white measurement on the value of getting your customer a circular saw a week earlier than the competition."
Continuing to train. "Ken and Dick got the teams all excited," says Doug DeVries, training and environmental-services manager, "but they were so busy training new teams, they didn't have time to spend with those who were already trained." Established teams were hungry for more information. Some, for example, felt they lacked the skills needed to make hiring decisions about new team members, others needed training in statistical process control, and some even needed help with basic reading and writing. DeVries was called upon to develop a permanent in-house training program. Now the company runs book-discussion groups and classroom training sessions every other week. Says DeVries, "We're trying for 24 hours of training per team member a year."