Here is in the middle of the holiday season, a festive time when ideally everyone is celebrating, enjoying family and having fun. In anticipation of being fired from his job of three years, John Smithers is home working on his resume. John works at Sigtek, a small telecommunications company, Sigtek was in need of a change and several months earlier Sigtek set in motion a plan to launch a Total Quality Program and John had been appointed one of two site managers to run the program. Not only would this be the key to getting Sigtek set on the right path but, John felt this would be a challenging and rewarding opportunity for him and he would be able to utilize and apply some of the management skills that he believed in so fervently. However, with the recent demotion of his boss, John felt that it was just a matter of time before he would lose his job as well.
John Smitherâs decision
John currently works on the engineering side of the business to encourage problem solving and open communication, and to enlist worker participation. John has been successful at identifying problems within the engineering group and developing effective strategies to resolve them. Recently John had been promoted to lead the engineering services, the group that handles product design work and documentation for manufacturing, and one of Sigtekâs more troubled units.
As the engineering services manager John had the responsibility to redefine the design process, correct inadequate documentation and cut the highest employee turn over rate in the company. John utilized his managerial skills along with the information he found in articles and books that he read to assist him to make the changes that were needed to accomplish his goals. From personnel changes to changing the group's focus, within months Johnâs accomplishments were very impressive: the companyâs design process catered to the needs of the customer; the time it took to complete a design had been cut in half; the high employee attrition rate had declined. John was considered a popular leader with infectious enthusiasm.
John felt that he was selected to be one of the instructors so that there would be a strong representation from the engineering side of the business in the Total Quality program and because he was one of the best managers in his division. John had reservations and was skeptical about their ability to effect change but, accepted the teaching post. He hoped that the Total Quality program would be the pivotal change that Sigtek needed, John was convinced that unless Sigtek embraced some type of change program itâs days were numbered.
Company background and history:
Three Western Electric Veterans founded Sigtek about 25 years ago. Sigtek manufactured circuit boards for signal handling which is sold primarily to AT&T and other long-distance carriers. A large technology company purchased Sigtek 10 years prior, the company maintained a hands-off management style and let Sigtek run on its own. With many changes in the industry including the opening up of the long-distance market to other competitors, the stockpiling of products as well as the break up of AT&T, Sigtekâs growth skyrocketed. Sales had shot up to over $60 million and the workforce grew to 1,000. With stats like this Sigtek was predicted to be a $100 million company within five years.
The following year Sigtekâs sales crumbled to $400 million and the workforce was cut back to 800, due to the earlier stockpiling in the industry that had caused the sales to be artificially depressed, the companies attempt to incorporate software into a computer system for signal handling had fallen behind schedule and for the first time Sigtek was challenged by new competitors in the industry and not to mention that the printed circuit boards that Sigtek was known for had become a commodity product, the customer focus was more on the price and delivery time, they were less concerned with quality.
As if those changes were not enough, Sigtek was sold again but this time to Telework, a $500 million European telecommunications company. Telework had plans to change how Sigtek operated; they would implement a new program, a Total Quality program that they would bring to all of its subsidiaries. The goals of the program included improving product and encourage better management practices, and to pull all of the scattered and diverse companies which Telework had acquired under a single umbrella.
II. Problems and causes:
Sigtekâs business has dropped and the company is faced with competition:
As mentioned in the introduction, due to the earlier stockpiling in the industry that had caused the sales to be artificially depressed, the companyâs attempt to incorporate software into a computer system for signal handling had fallen behind schedule and for the first time Sigtek was challenged by new competitors in the industry and not to mention that the printed circuit boards that Sigtek was known for had become a commodity product, the customer focus was more on the price and delivery time, they were less concerned with quality. These factors caused Sigtekâs sales to crumble from $60 million to $400 million and the workforce was cut back from 1,000 to 800.
Sigtek is under new ownership that has plans to influence the way Sigtek currently operates:
Under previous leadership, Sigtek was left alone to do its own thing. Now owned by Telwork, Sigtekâs current mode of operation will undergo change. Though change is good it is not always readily accepted. Telework plans to implement The Total Quality program, a program that is based on a highly acclaimed model and is designed to heighten employee awareness of six Total Quality Goals:
1. to provide product and service quality better than all competitors;
2. to be the lowest âcost quality, producer;
3. to relentlessly pursue quality improvement;
4. to manage through leadership;
5. to personally involve all employees through participative activity;
6. to be compromised of employees who approach the job fearlessly.
There has been a division between the engineering and operations divisions for years that could create a barrier to change:
The current head of engineering Andrew Cross and his counterpart Richard Patricof head of operations are ill-matched. They have totally different management styles and beliefs. Cross is committed to bringing in new ideas and management practices while Patricof leans more towards style and less towards substantive results. This conflict is what creates the natural split between the engineering and operation departments. The two departments were physically separated, the engineering department is isolated in its own building away from the rest of operations and this separation is symbolic of the deep organizational gulf that divides the two departments. This division makes it impossible for the organization to operate efficiently and effectively.
John Smithers has reservations about their ability to effect change. He did not want to offer false hopes and expectations to the employees:
Though John feels that this could be the change needed to get Sigtek headed in the right direction, an opportunity to alter the organization in a way he had been trying to do within his own division. He realizes that there are possible obstacles. He had previously tried to create a team concept that failed, and he was not sure that he and the instructor from the operations side that he was paired with were a good match.
Lack of support and commitment from senior management to the Total Quality program:
John was disappointed and disturbed by the response to the program. The program was presented to the senior and middle management team to help make the instructor's jobs easier and to help management understand the impact of the change that would be happening once the program was presented/rolled out to the ranks. The first time the managers saw the presentation, there were no questions and it seemed as if no one cared or understood. It did not appear that any of the managers were interested in being converted or cared to but into the Total Quality program.
Once the process begins Smithers and his counterpart realize that they are not prepared to begin the Total Quality training program as scheduled:
Though Smithers and Murphy met with the Quality Improvement Team, a group of Sigtek managers pulled together to serve as a steering committee- establishing guidelines and helping to implement the Total Quality program, both Smithers and Murphy struggled to pull their presentations together. Their own individual department responsibilities suffered from their frequent absences and they realized that they would need a one- week extension to be ready for the September launch of the program. Their request was denied and with a little scrambling around they got the training underway.
Lack of support in solving manageable problems and issues:
Management did not seem dedicated and committed to the changes that they preached. According to the training manual workers were to be encouraged to participate and give input however when employees asked for help or changes they were ignored or treated as trouble makers. The Quality Improvement team that was put in place to help coordinate and facilitate the Total Quality program was quiet and almost non-existent. They did not keep their promises to be actively involved in the implementation of the program. There were no memos, no letters and no meetings held.
IV. Systems Affected:
Changing to the Total Quality program will have the most impact on the Managerial Subsystem, as the managerial subsystem is important to function in integrating the activities of the other subsystems. The company will need its managers and leaders to motivate and drive employees in a positive manner. Once trained and onboard, with the program, the management teams will work together and support each other.
The Total Quality program will also affect the Goals and Values Subsystem. Within the six Quality Goals of the program, it states the basic mission and vision of the program. The employee buy-in to the program will change the mindset of the organization. Though each department will have its own set of goals, ultimately everyone will have the same common goals for the company and each department will understand how to work together to reach the goals.
John Smithers pulls back
Only one month into the training on the Total Quality program Smithers was ready to put the training process on hold. He felt that the visible successes were far too small, and he did not feel that there were enough examples of real changes that the Total Quality program had achieved. There were no big wins, company morale was at an all-time low, Sigtek appeared to be headed for its first loss and in the seven months since Smithers first agreed to be a quality instructor, there had been four rounds of layoffs.
There was definitely a need for reassessment, both Smithers and Murphy requested a temporary break in the classes and the request was denied in the name of âkeeping faceâ Corporate had a schedule and we are sticking to it is what they were told.
Smithers began to question the motives of Telwork, why or how could they impose such a program on all of its subsidiaries, regardless of their business needs. How could Telework not realize that a major corporate change can take years?
Along with all of the above Telework implemented a major management change, the founder and president were terminated and the new general manager no longer needed John Smithers and Richard Murphy to attend the Total Quality Improvement Team meetings. This was It Smithers could see the âwriting on the wallâ It appeared that the end was in sight. As Smithers looked back over the last eight months he wondered could he have done something differently?
Recognize and address the existence of conflict between the engineering and operations departments. It is clear that the conflict has affected the effectiveness of the organization. Teamwork should be encouraged by tearing down the walls that have isolated the departments. The engineering, and operational departments both need to work together on all projects and company efforts from the beginning.
There needs to be more collaboration between the two departments to establish a pattern of open communication, a relationship of trust, and an atmosphere of shared responsibility. This will also eliminate any hidden agendas that may cause problems.
Create a concept for change to get each of the management teams on the same page and focused on the same goal. Providing feedback and utilizing the tools for change will help the management teams to understand the change. Once everyone is onboard and in favor of the changes the ideas can then be analyzed in every aspect of the business to determine how valuable the changes will be for the company.