The Case of Littleton Manufacturing Executive Summary Littleton Manufacturing is …. For years, they have been able to capitalize on synergy between the Information Technology group and other departments and look to continue that trend with the deployment of a new paperless job posting system. A similar transition to paperless in their purchasing group has saved the company millions of dollars, so digitizing another manual paper process seemed like a sure bet. However, a recent change at top executive leadership threatens to derail the project.
This analysis is based on information provided on the article and some reasonable assumptions made by the reader. It is divided into sections for each of the identified key problems and within those sections, situational facts, cause – effects, opportunities, and recommendations are presented. Key Characters Paul Winslow, Director of Human Resources at Littleton Manufacturing, has been with the organization for several years and is currently wrestling with how to best deal with six identified problems at Littleton. Bill Larson, Plant Manager of Littleton Manufacturing, has been in his role for the past seven years.
He’s a former Army officer and farmer. He considers himself a people person, but someone who holds his employees accountable. Dan Gordon, Fabrication Manufacturing Manager, has been with Littleton Manufacturing for fifteen years and runs his operation with a firm hand and strict rules. Phil Hanson, Components Manufacturing Manager, has been with Littleton Manufacturing for seven years and has worked his way up to his current position from materials manager. Organizational Facts Brooks Industries, the second largest producer of domestic appliances in the United States, acquired Littleton Manufacturing in 1942.
Forty-one years later, in 1983, Brooks also purchased Fruhling, Inc which brought a new components manufacturing business to Littleton. To support the new business, the workforce of Littleton was increased 4X from 150 to 600. The Fabrication operations at Littleton supports the Components operations by providing subcomponents and each are treated as cost centers to Brooks. Situational Facts After enjoying several years of successful growth in the appliances industry, Brooks’s sales has declined almost 10 percent due to external pressures from Asian and European competition.
In response to an unexpected first quarter loss in 1990, Brooks announced a corporate wide efficiency drive, workforce reduction, and corporate restructuring. Additionally, operations such as Littleton Manufacturing have seen salary increases limited and resources reduced. To make things worse, a recent survey conducted by a local university found six critical problems at Littleton: •Lack of organizational unity •Insufficient focus on Littleton’s priorities (Work-out) •Change is poorly managed (CAP) •Lack of consistency in enforcing rules and procedures •Supervisor’s role poorly perceived Lack of systematic approach to training Lack of Organizational Unity The lack of organizational unity started is mainly seen with the difference between the two manufacturing facilities that coexist at the Littleton plant. The newer components manufacturing operation is perceived to be easier and in a better, newer part of the factory. Additionally, the supervisors on the fabrication operation are seen as enforcing rules more strictly than that of the components side. It is important for the continued success of Littleton that it standardizes on a single set of core values and structure.
A good starting point for Littleton would be to involve the workforce and management in developing a code of ethics as a formal statement of the company’s values concerning ethics and social responsibility. Additionally, leaders should be reinforced in the application of values-based leadership. By applying values-based leadership, employees are reassured that they are treated with fairness and care in an environment where everyone is held to high ethical standards (Daft, 2010). Insufficient Focus on Littleton’s Priorities Employees feel like that is insufficient focus on Littleton’s priorities.
Littleton has a stated goal of making quality products at a low cost, but employees at the front line fail to understand how they are connected to that mission. Managers also struggle with what they believe to be insufficient communication and support from corporate headquarters about long-term strategy. Because Littleton has no stated mission statement, it is hard for employees to stay grounded on how their individual tasks build towards a common goal. Additionally, communication is a one-way reporting of historical facts rather than an interactive dialog that allows for questions and clarifications.
Littleton does have an opportunity in that the workforce including hourly employees and middle management have a desire to see the company do well and a vested interested in its success. It is recommended that Littleton explore an interactive problem solving strategy like Work-Out at GE. Work-Out is described by Change Events, Inc. as “a simple, high-involvement process for cutting bureaucracy and solving problems quickly. ” (“Change events,” 2010) It entails four basic steps that Littleton can easily employ with the help of an advising company. . Enabling the people closest to issues 2. Challenging employees to develop creative solutions 3. Making decisions immediately and publicly 4. Empowering people to enact solutions Littleton must also establish a written mission statement and begin communicating it immediately. The mission statement is the best way for the organization to communicate to its current employees, customers, and business partners what it is trying to achieve and helps solidify the legitimacy of its purpose (Daft, 2010). Change is Poorly Managed at Littleton
Since the introduction of Littleton’s Quality Improvement System, there have been many changes aimed at increasing the productivity and efficiency of plant operations. For example, in the past 5 years, 6 major changes have been instituted at Littleton including everything from employee layoffs to a new production and inventory control system. Through many of the changes, employees have raised concerns about how changes are rolled out and communicated. This absence of communication has caused employees to formulate their own opinions and myths about the rationale behind changes.
Making things worse, supervisors are often the last to know about changes, even before hourly employees. Another appliances business, General Electric, found similar circumstances in the early 90’s. There it was discovered that no matter how good a technical plan was or was not, projects succeeded or failed on the backs of the ability of the workforce to adopt and adapt to changes. After years of studying this phenomenon, GE developed the Change Acceleration Program (CAP) and Process Model. CAP is now an essential element of all changes and has 7 steps (Von Der Linn, 2009). . Leading Change by ensuring that leadership is fully committed to change 2. Creating a Shared Need that will resonate with everyone, not just the leadership team. This creates that compelling reason to change on a personal level for everyone involved. 3. Shaping a Vision involves articulating a clear and legitimate vision of how the organization will be different and better after changes are complete. 4. Mobilizing Commitment involves executing the strategy set by the first three steps and leveraging early adopters to help overcome resistance of laggards. 5.
Making change last takes into account how the changes integrate with existing, possibly opposing, initiatives and how to overcome differences. 6. The Monitoring process sets benchmarks, tracks progress, celebrates wins and holds change agents accountable. 7. Changing Systems and Structures includes looking across functions to underlying systems and plans for how they also need to change to support the new environment. Support functions like HR, IT, and training & development and operations need to adapt to support the new system. Lack of consistency in Enforcing Rules and Procedures
One of the major complaints coming from both hourly and salaried workers is that there is inconsistency in how policies and procedures are applied. To make matters worse, there is a perception of distinct differences between the fabrication side and components side of the plant. The fabrication side is seen as draconian in its strict enforcement of policy, whereas the components side is seen as wasteful and lax. Some of these problems are attributed to poor communication of policies while others seem to stem from a hesitance to enforce policy by frontline supervisors.
Littleton should take time to develop a policy and procedure review and monitoring system. This review should culminate in a new common employee handbook. An employee handbook is an essential tool for communicating information about everything from culture, policies, safety and discipline (Mathis & Jackson, 2011). It is the responsibility of the Human Resources unit to develop the organizational wide policies, procedures and rules set forth in the handbook, but given the climate of Littleton, it will be important to include the workforce in any controversial changes.
Supervisor’s role poorly perceived Supervisors at Littleton feel like they are caught in the middle and it is causing that role to be poorly perceived. In fact, on the fabrication side of the operation, it has become difficult to get employees to take promotions into supervisor roles due to how the position is viewed. Supervisors have low morale and feel like they are not empowered to do a good job. Littleton is suffering from a lack of formalized training for the front line employees and needs to find a way to improve.
A good program that Littleton could invest in is Situational Leadership training Lack of systematic approach to training References Change events. (2010). Retrieved from http://www. changeevents. com/strategic-planning/large-group-planning-summits/ge-workout/ Daft, R. L. (2010). Organization theory and design. (10th ed. ). Mason, OH: South-Western Pub. Mathis, , & Jackson, J. (2011). Human resource management. (13th ed. ). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. Von Der Linn, B. (2009, January 25). Overview of ge. Retrieved from http://bvonderlinn. wordpress. com/2009/01/25/overview-of-ges-change-acceleration-process-cap/
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