Case Study: Boosting Factory Yields

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This week’s assignment illustrates how a confident change leader can achieve success when leading with strong values and change management background. This assignment provides the opportunity to show how what you have learned in this course can be applied to successful change.
Read the following case study in Ch. 12, “The Effective Change Manager: What Does It Take?” of Managing Organizational Change: A Multiple Perspectives Approach:
Case Study: Boosting Factory Yields

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Examine Pierre’s approach to decision-making regarding the future of the plant.
Distinguish managing change, as discussed in Week 2, from leading sustainable change, as illustrated in this case study.
Case Study: Boosting Factory Yields Aaron De Smet et al. (2012, p. 4) describe the following example of a change manager faced with a particularly difficult challenge. How would you assess his approach? is this a style that you would be prepared to use in your own organization? Or would you consider this style to be too risky? Conor, as we’ll call one European plant manager, needed to boost yields using the company’s new production system. In the past, the industrial giant would have assigned engineers steeped in lean production or Six Sigma to observe the shop floor, gather data, and present a series of improvements. Conor would then have told plant employees to implement the changes, while he gauged the results—a method consistent with his own instinctive command-and-control approach to leadership. But Conor and his superiors quickly realized that the old way wouldn’t succeed: only employees who actually did the work could identify the full range of efficiency improvements necessary to meet the operational targets, and no attempt to get them to do so would be taken seriously unless Conor and his line leaders were more collaborative. Workers were skeptical: a survey taken at about this time (in 2009) showed that plant workers saw Conor and his team as distant and untrustworthy. Moreover, the company couldn’t UK salary increases or overtime to boost morale, because of the ongoing global economic crisis. Conor’s leadership training gave him an opportunity to reflect on the situation and provided simple steps he could take to improve it. He began by getting out of his office, visiting the shop floor, and really listening to the workers talk about their day-to day experiences, their workflows. how their machines functioned, and where things went wrong. They’d kept all this information from him before. He made a point of starting meetings by inviting those present to speak, in part to encourage the group to find collective solutions to its problems. Conor explained: “As I shared what I thought and felt more openly, I started to notice things I had not been aware of, as other people became more open. We’d had the lean tools and good technology for a long time. Transparency and openness were the real break-through.” As the new atmosphere took hold, workers began pointing out minor problems and additional areas for improvement specific to their corners of the plant; within lust a few months its yields increased to 91 percent, from 87 percent. Today, yields run at 93 percent.

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