Copyright TIGERS Success Series

By Dianne Crampton

Moving forward from the devastating upheaval of the recent recession, there seems to be a major shift on the horizon of how the “Big 3” automakers and UAW will be conducting business.

With the auto industry giants adopting pay-for-performance options for employees and opening communication lines with the UAW, there is reason to hope for brighter…more efficient…days ahead.

The assembly line had its place over 100 years ago, but today that stagnant mindset has seen jobs lost to overseas markets where cars can be built faster, cheaper, and with higher quality standards.U.S.autoworkers are now being encouraged to leave behind the mentality of focusing on just their solitary “static” assembly line duty to participating in a more collaborative “team” environment.

When employees focus on a solitary aspect of the manufacturing process, commitment levels drop dramatically to organizational success as a whole. Unfortunately, this “tunnel vision” has helped create the attitude of “its not my job,” when it comes time to lend a hand in other areas. With this ingrained mindset, projects go over budget, are delayed, and resources are wasted.

If the auto industry or any manufacturing team is going to thrive in a highly competitive world market; employees, team leaders, and unions need to adopt a cooperative and accountable workplace environment. This broadening mindset aligns team members with leaders to produce a quality product in an efficient and timely manner.

Modern manufacturing is team-oriented and has become an integrated process where departments must now work together earlier than the final phase of product creation. Rewarding efficient and top performing employees on a pay for performance model is one way to provide employees with incentive to cut waste, streamline processes, improve  team behavior and produce a quality product. Manufacturers in general are primed for this compensation system because there are specific performance metrics such as producing more units in less time for less money.

This shift in manufacturing ideologies plays right into the TIGERS Success Series core values  of team building and leadership development. With open communication, clearly defined company goals, and effective employee conflict resolution, organizations can rid themselves of inefficiencies and remain viable in an evolving economy. So, to acknowledge a silver-lining in the recession cloud hangover, transparency and open communication among management and employees in the auto industry is actually starting to show improvement.

A team building activity TIGERS has used effectively over the past 20 years with companies such as Costco and Northrop Grumman is the TIGERS Team Wheel™ game. The game is an instrumental leadership-training tool for “newly forming” teams and problematic existing teams. It cuts short the stage of team growth called “storming” that is often plagued by confusion, misunderstandings, and conflict. The game addresses issues of strategic planning, employee conflict resolution, communication, team behavior, and team building.

In the case of the auto industry’s transition to a more collaborative, accountable workplace, team building and leadership development will be more important than ever. The UAW and Big 3 need to create a culture of respect among leaders and team members that builds loyalty, commitment, collaboration, and human resource stability within this transitioning mindset.