Identify one specific improvement in how this organization engages with its workforce that you would like to champion: Engaging & communicating with front-line employees Assignment, Ireland

Read the following article: How to change a culture – Lessons from NUMMI Are there any significant differences or similarities between the NUMMI approach and that of an organization you know? Identify one specific improvement in how this organization engages with its workforce that you would like to champion.

IN SPRING 2010, New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., the famed joint venture experiment by Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co., will close its doors. As someone who was there at its launch and witnessed a striking story of phenomenal company culture reinvention, I am often asked:

“What did you really do to change the culture at NUMMI so dramatically, so quickly?” I could answer the question from high altitude by simply saying, “We instituted the Toyota production and management systems.” But in the end that doesn’t explain much. A better way to answer is to describe more specifically what we actually did that resulted in turning the once dysfunctional disaster GM’s Fremont, California, plant — into a model manufacturing plant with the very same workers.

Backstory: Why NUMMI Began, and How It Fared Toyota hired me in late 1983 to work on the Toyota side of its new venture with GM. I was assigned to a newly formed group at the company’s Toyota City headquarters in Japan to develop and deliver training programs to support its impending overseas expansion. All of this was just happening. NUMMI didn’t even have a name yet. The agreement with the United Auto Workers union was yet to be signed. There weren’t yet any employees of NUMMI, nor even any managers. NUMMI wasn’t successful; it wasn’t famous. It was just a dream.

Why was the joint venture attempted? GM, for its part, had a few very tangible business objectives that it thought NUMMI could address. It didn’t know how to make a small car profitably. It wanted to put an idle plant and work force back on line. And, of perhaps less importance at the time, but still acknowledged, it had heard a little about Toyota’s production system, and NUMMI would provide the chance to see it up close and personal; NUMMI would be a chance to learn.

On the other side of the fence, Toyota faced pressure to produce vehicles in the United States. It was already trailing Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Nissan Motor Co., which was by then building cars in Ohio and Tennessee, respectively. Toyota could have just chosen to go it alone, which would have been quicker and simpler. But Toyota’s aim was to learn and to learn quickly. What better way than to get started with an existing plant (Fremont), and with a partner helping it navigate unfamiliar waters?

teach me first. So, starting in late 1983, Toyota put me to work at headquarters and at the Takaoka plant, NUMMI’s “mother plant” that produced the Corolla. I worked on all the major processes of car assembly.

Then, working with Japanese colleagues, I helped develop a training program to introduce the Toyota system to the American employees of NUMMI.

Need a New Way of Thinking? Act Your Way to It “Okay, so, how did you change the culture? What did you do that changed such a troublesome work force into an excellent one?”

What Is the Nature of a Good Company-Employee Relationship?

I have often been asked what motivates Toyota’s employees in Japan to “work so hard.” One powerful motivator, I believe, is the concept and feeling of membership. It is interesting to ask, “What is the nature of the company-employee relationship?” At Toyota or NUMMI, there is clear and evident commitment on the part of the company to the employees.

Toyota, even in Japan and contrary to popular myth, does not guarantee lifetime employment. No employer can credibly make such a guarantee. What an employer can do and what Toyota does is state that the last thing the company wants to do is lay off employees. Only as a last resort will it

turn to reducing the work force. Through such a policy, real trust can develop between the company and employees, along with the motivation for employees to accept responsibility and take ownership. At NUMMI, this policy was called “mutual trust.”

“Laying off as the last resort” was put to the test in the late 1980s. NUMMI’s product simply wasn’t selling well. Production volume was down so much that there were several hundred workers who weren’t actually needed to run the plant. Naturally, workers who had experienced layoffs in the past became nervous.

To demonstrate the company’s sincerity toward its employees’ welfare, NUMMI wrote into the contract the commitment that before anyone was laid off certain steps would have been taken, including reducing plant operating hours and cutting management bonuses. Employee motivation comes from assuring membership in the organization, rather than from buying and selling time, whatever the price tag.

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Identify one specific improvement in how this organization engages with its workforce that you would like to champion: Engaging & communicating with front-line employees Assignment, Ireland
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