General Electrics’ Durham, North Carolina assembly employees have a unique work environment in which they build the GE90 jet engine for Boeing. The 9 engine build teams consist of approximately 18 employees who own the entire process of assembling some 10,000 parts perfectly to create one complete engine assembly. The teams are self managed, doing everything from ordering parts and tools to scheduling vacation and overtime. The success of the teams comes from their founding method of agreement by consensus decisions making. In fact, the consensus decision making process has become a way of life to many of these employees, and management decisions are only needed about 12 decisions per year. Although employees don’t always have unanimous agreement, there is seldom any blame when things go wrong because of their strong trusting relationships. This type of consensus management has instilled a high level of trust relationships among the team members and their superiors.
These self-managed teams operate in a culture of continuous feedback and rely on management to make them aware of problems and report solutions. Beyond the day-to-day decisions making, any major issues, such as safety and cost, are decided by a task force. The plant manager informs and educates the task force and employees about the problem and why it is important, and the task force decides how to address problems. The task force takes the responsibility to find solutions and decisions are reporting back to plant management on what the future solutions will be.
These solutions and decisions made by the task force are communicate to the plant manager and then on to the higher-ups for their buy in. The Plant Manager Paula Sims, who has been on the job 4 years, has proposed to HR that she would like initiate a 360-degree review to supplement existing performance measures. Ms. Sims’ proposal is met with some concerns from HR, it is assumed that HR has concerns that implementing a new system without a consensus decision will breakdown trust with the employees and limit the willing participation if the 360 review were to be implemented.
The root problem with Ms. Sims proposal is that the implementation goes directly against the culture of consensus agreement on making decisions for the teams and the plant. Since this would be considered a major change, it should be brought to a task force for review and solution, or at minimum be brought to the attention of all employees. In the past, Ms. Sims has experienced issues of missed trust with the assembly teams and this direct approach with HR for the implementation a new performance measure stands to have an equally negative effect.
In order to address the root problem, HR would like to propose some alternative ideas to Ms. Sims proposals that could include awareness of GE corporate use general of 360 degree performance measures in other locations. Investigations on the benefits from other GE plants should be presented to employees to gain a better understanding and buy-in of the proposal. Knowing the culture of feedback that exist within the plant, Ms. Sims could call for a task force to investigate the benefits of 360 degree feedback and make a direction decision on the use of 360 degree appraisals. In consideration of alternative ideas, Ms. Sims should consider approaching the employees and HR by providing factual information about the value of peer reviews. For example, “research shows that appraisals by peers are useful predictors of training success and future performance” (Jackson, S.E., Schuler, R.S., & Werner, S., 2012).
Additionally, since the GE employees are team-based units, it is also been shown that anonymous peer appraisals in teams increase interpersonal effectiveness, group cohesion, communication openness and group satisfaction (Jackson, et al, 2012). Furthermore, she could gain more leverage by stating the success of the peer reviews in other GE facilities, as real life inter-company example. The last alternative is simply do nothing and keep the current system as it is without a 360 degree review. Considering Ms. Sims determination to implement the new appraisal, she should consider a trial basis with a one the nine teams as a test bed from training implementation and use of the 360 review. As multiple alternatives have been presented, a closer evaluation of each proposal is the necessary to derive the what is believed to the best alternative. 1. Awareness and Buy-in – this alternative looks at bringing awareness to the 360-degree appraisal as a supplemental appraisal by providing factual information on the benefits of the program at GE’s jet engine plant.
Awareness makes buy-in easier when at the end of the day, you allow the teams to make a decision by consensus on the implementation of the new peer review. 2. Empowered team decision – this alternative simply turns the information and decision back to the team and task force. This alternative is the most cohesive alternative and aligns well with the culture of the company. 3. Trial basis – this alternative assume Ms. Sims pushes her idea forward and assumes she will be met with some resistance during the implementation phase. In this case focusing on a smaller beta test group proves to be easier to manage and create buy-in with when the results show positive improvements. 4. Status Quo – this alternative assumes that nothing is done, no implementation is agreed upon and the current performance measures stay in place without a 360-degree appraisal.
Choose an Alternative & Implementation
In an effort to maintain the strong trusting relationships that exist at the various levels of team members and management, it is recommended that the alternative proposal of “awareness and buy-in” be selected and acted upon. Implementation of this plan will begin with Ms. Sims collecting and presenting data from both internal GE resources and external resources to show the benefits of supplementing the current performance appraisals with a 360-degree peer review. Next Ms. Sims must work directly with HR to plan an appropriate training period and plan in conjunction with the roll out of information to the 9 assembly teams. This portion of the preparation should include the consideration of one group to be the test bed or beta group for evaluation purposes. Once the information is presented to all the employees, an internal task force should be commissioned to evaluate the information provided by Ms. Sims for the purpose my allowing the continuance of the consensus culture.
There are a multitude of options this management team has in considering the addition of the new peer review. However, allowing the teams and/or special task force to make the decision on their own and continue to feel the sense of ownership is paramount in the implementation phase of the proposal. Therefore it is recommended that after the beta group is selected and effectively trained, HR and Ms. Sims must monitor the effectiveness of the raters over an initially shorter period of time for the appraisals to take place.
This step will be for the purpose of training and evaluation. Based the results from the six months data collection and feedback from the Beta group, Ms. Sims and HR will determine if further training is needed, if the employees are seeing value in the productivity and performance improvements as a result of using the 360 degree appraisals. If the results are positive the information will be shared with the task force and all employees for further implementation and training, beyond the beta group.
Jackson, S.E., Schuler, R.S., & Werner, S (2012). Managing Human Resources (11th edition)., Mason, OH: South-Western
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