The Human Side of Lean Manufacturing
use of work teams is the most powerful organization concept since the Roman Legions. Teamwork
provides superior motivation, enhanced coordination, improved problem solving, and better
decision-making. Team building is not an easy task. Teams require training, compatible workflow,
compatible organizations structures, understanding management, and patience.
Work teams are an important component of Lean Manufacturing. They enhance the performance of
workcells and improve quality efforts.
The Self Directed Work Team (SDWT) is perhaps the most powerful organization concept since
the Roman Legions. They motivate, coordinate, solve problems, and make decision better than
individuals. This performance comes at a price: decisions are slow, work teams require extensive
training and months to mature. However, the benefits far outweigh the difficulties and
Problem-Solving and Self Directed Work Teams are the
most common types.
Problem-solving teams have members from different parts
of an organization. The purpose is to solve a problem and disband at task completion. They
usually employ a leader or facilitator.
Work Teams are ongoing. Their mission is to manage and
coordinate daily work. They draw members from the same department or area. Ideally, they perform
a series of sequential tasks that result in a finished product. Work teams may switch to the
problem-solving mode to deal with an impediment.
Work teams may have any of several leadership
arrangements. Some have appointed leaders; others have no formal leader. Intermediate
arrangements such as elected leaders or facilitators are also effective.
Why Teams Work Better
"The Human Side of Lean Manufacturing"
Problems in an organization are often complex and difficult. Root causes are hidden.
Solutions are elusive and often ineffective. How many times have you dealt with a problem that
crops up again and again? How many times have you dealt with a problem that was supposedly
Trained, diverse, and mature work teams address problems better than individuals or other
groups. From training and experience they dig deep for the root causes. Diversity brings
logical, emotional, and intuitive intelligences to bear on an issue. Solutions are often simple,
elegant, and effective. Competent work teams make better decisions for the same reasons.
Motivation is superior with teams, especially Self Directed Work Teams. Think of your
feelings while on a winning sports team to appreciate this power. Teams appeal to the higher
motivators. They satisfy cravings for social interaction, esteem, and self-actualization
(Maslow & Motivation).
Excellent coordination is also evident in work teams. This is especially important where
multiple, sequential tasks take place. The sports analogy applies here as well.
The power and effectiveness of work teams can be a strategic advantage in business. However,
they are not for management that is impatient, arrogant or unwilling to invest time, attention,
and training. In the articles that follow we explore the conditions for success with teams.