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Effectiveness Of Self Manage Teams In Levi Strauss & Co

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Executive Summary

This case study reviews the effectiveness of self manage teams in Levi Strauss & Co. The self manage teams were not performing and was facing problems such as low morale, high overhead cost and decrease in efficiency. The problems were analysed to determine the causes. The causes were insufficient training; poor management commitment; unclear objectives; poor strategy and implementation plan.

Solutions were then brainstormed for the above causes, which are;

- Establish a comprehensive training program which is a critical component for successful self manage teams. The whole training cycle, encompassing the training needs analysis, the training program and training effectiveness, must be carried out.

- Establish specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely objectives to ensure alignment through out the organization.

- Develop proper and clear guidelines and best practices to govern the teams as they need to know the boundaries of their decision making. The guidelines must incorporate reward system reinforcing the nature of self managed teams.

The above solution will help the team morale and empower the teams to perform effectively to achieve the team and organization objectives.

Statement of Problem

Implementation of self managing teams (SMT) which resulted in the following problems;

- Deterioration of employee morale.

- Increase in labour and overhead cost by 25% during the first year of implementation.

- Decrease in efficiency (quantity of pants produced per hour worked) by 23%.

- Decrease in market share of men’s denim jeans in United States from 48% in 1990 to 26% in 1997.

Analysis of the cause of the problem

Levi Strauss & Co. implemented its SMT in 1992 with the intent of lower cost and increase productivity in order to remain competitive and keep their North America plants open.

Upon implementation SMTs, various problems affecting employee morale surfaced. The problems ranged from absenteeism to infighting among team members. Some brief seminars and training on team building and problem solving was given to the employees.

The question here, is the training given to the employees sufficient?

SMTs advocate team work and job rotation and therefore workers must understand team roles and also be multi skilled. It seems that Levi Strauss & Co only touched the surface in terms of training. Wellins (1992) suggested that organization underestimate the types of trainings required for team based work culture. He states that at least 20% of the time of a team member is spent on training during the first year of team activities in successful organizations.

It is important that understanding each others roles as helps build trust among them. This is further supported by Belbin (1993) who stress that without understanding of team role theory, teams cannot be successfully established. It was evident that the teams did not understand the stages of group development. They were fine during the forming stage and problems started rising during the storming stage, where there were lots of mistrust between the team members to extent of threatening to kill. The team members clearly did not understand their roles and expectation. There was virtually no or poor leadership during this group develop stage as the teams had limited supervision. The teams did eventually move into the norming and performing stage despite limited intervention from management. However it took them quite long as it was too late for the teams to show effective results and drastic measure had to be taken by the management.

The mismatch of skills of team members clearly shows that employees were not given proper job skills training. Members were not cross trained in each others area. Apart from that it seems also the team members lack quality and actions skills even though some problem solving skills training was given. Fundamentally 3 categories of trainings are important for effective team performance, which are job skills, team / interaction skills, and quality / action skills (Wellins, 1992).

As for the management, moving into SMT changes their role. According to Clifford & Sohal (1998), empowering employees requires new management skills of relinquishing power and authority and moving to democracy within the work environment. The task of middle management is re-orientated towards managing for growth and innovation (Purser & Cabana, 1999). They become coaches, mentor and catalyst for change therefore they require addition training to achieve the above.

Another cause to consider is commitment from management. Through out the implementation, it seems that the commitment from management is poor. One important fact for SMTs is a common of how these teams will fit in the organization and also leadership (Capozzoli, 2006). The organization need to communicate its commitment effectively not just with a single memo from the vice-president. The CEO or MD should be involved in the initial stages implementation and the means of communication should reach the masses. Management should also commit resources, people and money especially during the initial implementation stage (Capozzoli, 2006). Trust between employees and managers, is another aspect that is important. Trust is something that builds over time and not achieved overnight. At most times employees do not trust management especially during change. Ray (1994) suggested that management tends to overestimate the level of trust employees have in them.

A proper strategy with realistic goals, implementation plan and reward system is essential to the success of SMTs. The organization must be clear about what it want to achieve through SMTs. Levi’s did not have clear goals on for its SMTs. It was not clear if they wanted to reduce their cost or lower repetitive-stress injuries. Realistic goals must be set and the performance be monitored with regular feedback to the teams (Capozzoli, 2006). The structure and boundaries of teams must be set so that empowerment is effective. Landes (1994) wrote that employees need a clear set of instructions detailing the boundaries of the decisions that the teams can make. The quick and haphazard implementation of SMTs with the proper structure and boundaries contributed to the infighting in teams and



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