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The traditional manufacturing process was well known to the workers and they were experienced in it. A new manufacturing system (product based)…
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What were the main sources of conflict in this case study? The main source of conflict is change: introduction of cellular manufacturing to replace the traditional manufacturing process. The traditional manufacturing process was well known to the workers and they were experienced in it. A new manufacturing system (product based) required them to learn the traditional manufacturing process again. This brought resistance since the employees felt they had enough knowledge and experience. The change in atmosphere among the employees and the managers also brought a lot of tension. Any attempts by the managers to force employees to work on the interests of the managers’ yielded resistance.
Pressure could be another source of conflict. Employees felt they were pressured so much by the stewards who were not ready to negotiate. Workers did not want to do extra work at their free time any more. The stewards and the company showed a neglect attitude towards the worker’s principles, which the author compares to “Thatcherism”.
How did conflict manifest itself?
The introduction of the new initiatives was supposedly to provide benefits to everyone. It stated that it would help strengthen negotiations and mutual understanding between the two sides. The workers however, did not believe in this argument. They thought that the initiative would separate the employees instead of uniting them. The employees were ready to have endless negotiations with the managers, and were not ready to accept the new rules.
Northern Plant wanted the employees to start using the U shaped structure which the company considered time saving. He managers called it the “multi-skilled process”. According to the workers however, the process just looked like the normal routine they always did when manufacturing under the traditional manufacturing process, but in different amounts.
The new initiative was also seen as creating borders between workers’ relationships, with some workers having more power than others. This created different groups with different views.
Drawing on the material taught in class, what lessons can we learn about conflict and conflict resolution from this article?
It is clear that change is a source of conflict and managers should ensure they have good strategies of managing change to deal with resistance. It is also clear that workers’ values should be recognized in making decisions and change in a company. The managers neglected the workers’ negotiation process. Conflict resolution also requires good management skills. The managers in the end, used the strategy of special consideration to deal with the resistance. The article has shown that the structures based on JIT and TQM management control are very powerful and are not easy to resist. Read More
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